Skip to main content

Full text of "Civilization On Trial"

See other formats





CALL No. 90// Toy 

D.G.A. 79 







Oxford University Press , Amen House , London E.CA 


First edition 1946 

Reprinted 1949 (twice), 1953 and 1957 

i».at jS T'J r T ‘ ? 


Acc. No. 37 

KIM '.f-H..*™ 

f>i u 0 ..ap.!..f.s^. 

«««»« a *«««# 



Although the essays collected in this volume have been 
written at different dates— several as long as twenty years 
ago, the majority within the last fifteen months— the book 
has, in the writer’s mind, a unity of outlook, aim, and idea 
which, he hopes, will be felt by his readers. The unity of 
outlook lies in the standpoint of a historian who sees the 
Universe and all that therein is— souls and bodies, experi- 
ence and events— in irreversible movement through time- 
space. The common aim that runs through this series of 
papers is to gain some gleam of insight into the meaning 
of this mysterious spectacle. The governing idea is the 
familiar one that the universe becomes intelligible to the 
extent of our ability to apprehend it as a whole. This idea 
has practical consequences for the historical method. An 
intelligible field of historical study is not to be found 
within any national framework; we must expand our his- 
torical horizon to think in terms of an entire civilization. 
But this wider framework is still too narrow, for civiliza- 
tions, like nations, are plural, not singular; there are differ- 
ent civilizations which meet and, out of their encounters, 
societies of another species, the higher religions, are bom 
into this world. That is not, however, the end of the his- 
torian’s quest, for no higher religion is intelligible in terms 
of this world only. The mundane history of the higher 
religions is one aspect of the life of a Kingdom of Heaven, 
of which this world is one province. So history passes over 
into theology. ‘To Him return ye every one.’ 



Ten out of the thirteen essays in this book were published separately 
before being brought together here, and the writer and the publishers 
take this opportunity of thanking the original publishers for their 
courteous permission to reprint. 

‘My View of History* was first published in England in the Contact 
publication Britain between East and West; ‘The Present Point in History/ 
copyright 1947 by Foreign Affairs; ‘Does History Repeat Itself?*, copy- 
right 1947 by The New York Times; ‘The International Outlook/ copy- 
right 1947 by International Affairs , is based on addresses given at Harvard 
University on 7 April 1947, at the Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto 
Branches of the Canadian Institute of International Relations during the 
following week, and at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in 
London on 22 May of the same year; ‘Civilization on Trial/ copyright 
1947 by The Atlantic Monthly , is based on a lecture delivered at Princeton 
University on 20 February 1947; ‘Russia's Byzantine Heritage/ published 
in Horizon of August 1947, is based on a course of two lectures delivered 
in April 1947 at the University of Toronto on the Armstrong Foundation; 
‘Encounters between Civilizations/ published in Harper’ s Magazine of 
April 1947, is based on the first lecture in a series delivered at Bryn Mawr 
College in February and March 1947 on the Mary Flexner Foundation; 
‘Christianity and Civilization/ copyright 1947 by Arnold J. Toynbee 
(Pen die Hill Publications), is based on the Burge Memorial Lecture for 
that year, which was delivered in the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford on 
23 May 1940 — at a critical moment, as it happened, in the history of both 
the lecturer's own country and the world. ‘The Meaning of History for 
the Soul/ copyright 1947 by Christianity ' and Crisis , is based on a lecture 
delivered at Union Theological Seminary, New York, on 19 March 1947; 
‘The Graeco-Roman Civilization* is based on a lecture delivered at 
Oxford University in the summer term of one of the interwar years, in a 
course, organized by Professor Gilbert Murray, of prolegomena to various 
subjects studied in the Oxford School of Literae Humaniores ; ‘The Dwarf- 
ing of Europe* is based on a lecture delivered in London on 27 October 
1926, with Dr. Hugh Dalton in the chair, in a series organized by the 
Fabian Society on ‘The Shrinking World: Dangers and Possibilities*; 
‘The Unification of the World and the Change in Historical Perspective* 
is based on the Creighton Lecture delivered in the Senate House of the 
University of London on 17 November 1947. 

A. J. Toynbee 

January 1948 



1. My View of History 3 

2. The Present Point in History 16 

3. Does History Repeat Itself? 29 

4. The Graeco-Roman Civilization 42 

5. The Unification of the World and the Change 

in Historical Perspective 62 

6. The Dwarfing of Europe 97 

7. The International Outlook 126 

8. Civilization on Trial 1 50 

9. Russia's Byzantine Heritage 164 

10. Islam, the West, and the Future 184 

11. Encounters between Civilizations 213 

12. Christianity and Civilization 225 

1 3. _The Meaning of History for the Soul 253 




My view of history is itself a tiny piece of history; and 
this mainly other people’s history and not my own; for 
a scholar’s life-work is to add his bucketful of water to 
the great and growing river of knowledge fed by count- 
less bucketfuls of the kind. If my individual view of 
history is to be made at all illuminating, or indeed intel- 
ligible, it must be presented in its origin, growth, and 
social and personal setting. 

There are many angles of vision from which human 
min ds peer at the universe. Why am I a historian, not a 
philosopher or a physicist? For the same reason that I drink 
tea and coffee without sugar. Both habits were formed at 
a tender age by following a lead from my mother. I am a 
historian because my mother was one before me; yet at 
the same time I am conscious that I am of a different school 
from hers. Why did I not exactly take my mother’s cue? 

First, because I was born by my mother into the next 
generation to hers, and my mind was, therefore, not yet 
set hard when history took my generation by the throat 
in 1914; and, secondly, because my education was more 
old-fashioned than my mother’s had been. My mother— 



belonging as she did to the first generation, in England, of 
university women— had obtained an up-to-date education 
in modem Western history, with the national history of 
England itself as the principal guide-line. Her son, being 
a boy, went to an old-fashioned English public school and 
was educated, both there and at Oxford, almost entirely 
on the Greek and Latin classics. 

For any would-be historian— and especially for one born 
into these times— a classical education is, in my belief, a 
priceless boon. As a training-ground, the history of the 
Graeco-Roman world has its conspicuous merits. In the 
first place, Graeco-Roman history is visible to us in per- 
spective and can be seen by us as a whole, because it is 
over— in contrast to the history of our own Western 
world, which is a still-unfinished play of which we do 
not know the eventual ending and cannot even see the 
present general aspect from our own position as momentary 
actors on its crowded and agitated stage. 

In the second place, the field of Graeco-Roman history 
is not encumbered and obscured by a surfeit of informa- 
tion, and so we can see the wood— thanks to a drastic 
thinning of the trees during the interregnum between the 
dissolution of the Graeco-Roman society and the emer- 
gence of our own. Moreover, the conveniently manageable 
amount of evidence that has survived is not overweighted 
by the state papers of parochial principalities, like those 
which, in our Western world, have accumulated, ton upon 
ton, during the dozen centuries of its pre-atomic-bomb 
age. The surviving materials for a study of Graeco-Roman 
history are not only manageable in quantity and select in 
quality; they are also well-balanced in their character. 
Statues, poems, and works of philosophy count here for 
more than the texts of laws and treaties; and this breeds a 

[ 4 ] 


sense of proportion in the mind of a historian nursed on 
Graeco-Roman history; for— as we can see in the perspec- 
tive given by lapse of time more easily than we can see 
it in the life of our own generation— the works of artists 
and men of letters outlive the deeds of business men, sol- 
diers, and statesmen. The poets and the philosophers out- 
range the historians; while the prophets and the saints 
overtop and outlast them all. The ghosts of Agamemnon 
and Pericles haunt the living world of to-day by grace 
of the magic words of Homer and Thucydides; and, when 
Homer and Thucydides are no longer read, it is safe to 
prophesy that Christ and the Buddha and Socrates will 
still be fresh in the memory of (to us) almost inconceiv- 
ably distant generations of men. 

The third, and perhaps greatest, merit of Graeco-Roman 
history is that its outlook is oecumenical rather than 
parochial. Athens may have eclipsed Sparta and Rome 
Samnium, yet Athens in her youth made herself the edu- 
cation of all Hellas, while Rome in her old age made the 
whole Graeco-Roman world into a single commonwealth. 
In Graeco-Roman history, surveyed from beginning to 
end, unity is the dominant note; and, when once I had 
heard this great symphony, I was no longer in danger of 
being hypnotized by the lone and outlandish music of 
the parochial history of my own country, which had once 
enthralled me when I listened to my mother telling it to 
me in instalments, night by night, as she put me to bed. 
The historical pastors and masters of my mother’s genera- 
tion, not only in England but in all Western countries, 
had been eagerly promoting the study of national history- 
in the mistaken belief that it had a closer bearing on their 
countrymen’s lives and was, therefore, somehow more 
readily accessible to their understanding than the history 

[ 5 ] 


of other places and times (although it is surely evident 
that, in reality, Jesus’ Palestine and Plato’s Greece were 
more potently operative than Alfred’s or Elizabeth’s Eng- 
land in the lives of English men and women of the Vic- 
torian age). 

Yet, in spite of this misguided Victorian canonization 
--so alien from the spirit of the father of English history, 
the Venerable Bede— of the history of the particular coun- 
try in which one happened to have been born, the un- 
conscious attitude of the Victorian Englishman towards 
history was that of someone living outside history alto- 
gether. He took it for granted— without warrant— that he 
himself was standing on terra, ftrma, secure against being 
engulfed in that ever-rolling stream in which Time had 
borne all his less privileged sons away. In his own privi- 
leged state of being emancipated, as he supposed, from 
history, the Victorian Englishman gazed with curiosity, 
condescension, and a touch of pity, but altogether without 
apprehension, at the spectacle of iess fortunate denizens of 
other places and periods struggling and foundering in 
history’s flood— in much the same way as, in a mediaeval 
Italian picture, the saved lean over the balustrade of Heaven 
to look down complacently at the torments of the damned 
in Hell. Charles the First— worse luck for him— had been 
in history, but Sir Robert Walpole, though threatened 
with impeachment, had just managed to scramble out of 
the surf, while we ourselves were well beyond high-water 
mark in a snug coign of vantage where nothing could 
happen to us. Our more backward contemporaries might, 
perhaps, still be waist-high in the now receding tide, but 
what was that to us? 

I remember, at the beginning of a university term during 
the Bosnian crisis of 1908-9, Professor L. B. Namier, then 



an undergraduate at Balliol and back from spending a 
vacation at his family home just inside the Galician frontier 
of Austria, saying to us other Balliol men, with (it seemed 
to us) a portentous air: ‘Well, the Austrian army is mobi- 
lized on my father’s estate and the Russian army is just 
across the frontier, half-an-hour away.’ It sounded to us 
like a scene from The Chocolate Soldier, but the lack of 
comprehension was mutual, for a lynx-eyed Central Euro- 
pean observer of international affairs found it hardly 
credible that these English undergraduates should not real- 
ize that a stone’s-throw away, in Galicia, their own goose, 
too, was being cooked. 

Hiking round Greece three years later on the trail of 
Epaminondas and Philopoemen and listening to the talk 
in the village cafes, I learnt for the first time of the exist- 
ence of something called the foreign policy of Sir Edward 
Grey. Yet, even then, I did not realize that we too were 
still in history after all. I remember feeling acutely home- 
sick for the historic Mediterranean as I walked, one day 
in 1913, along the Suffolk coast of a grey and uneventful 
North Sea. The general war of 1914 overtook me ex- 
pounding Thucydides to Balliol undergraduates reading 
for Literae Humaniores , and then suddenly my under- 
standing was illuminated. The experience that we were 
having in our world now had been experienced by Thucy- 
dides in his world already. I was re-reading him now with 
a new perception— perceiving meanings in his words, and 
feelings behind his phrases, to which I had been insensible 
until I, in my turn, had run into that historical crisis that 
had inspired him to write his work. Thucydides, it now 
appeared, had been over this ground before. He and his 
generation had been ahead of me and mine in the stage 
of historical experience that we had respectively reached; 

[ 7 ] 


in fact, his present had been my future. But this made 
nonsense of the chronological notation which registered 
my world as ‘modern’ and Thucydides’ world as ‘ancient.’ 
Whatever chronology might say, Thucydides’ world and 
my world' had now proved to be philosophically contem- 
porary. And, if this were the true relation between the 
Graeco-Roman and the Western civilizations, might not 
the relation between all the civilizations known to us turn 
out to be the same? 

This vision— new to me— of the philosophical contem- 
poraneity of all civilizations was fortified by being seen 
against a background provided by some of the discoveries 
of our modern Western physical science. On the time- 
scale now unfolded by geology and cosmogony, the five 
or six thousand years that had elapsed since the first emer- 
gence of representatives of the species of human society 
that we label ‘civilizations’ were an infinitesimally brief 
span of time compared to the age, up to date, of the human 
race, of life on this planet, of the planet itself, of our own 
solar system, of the galaxy in which it is one grain of dust, 
or of the immensely vaster and older sum total of the 
stellar cosmos. By comparison with these orders of tem- 
poral magnitude, civilizations that had emerged in the 
second millennium b.c. (like the Graeco-Roman), in the 
fourth millennium b.c. (like the Ancient Egyptian), and 
in the first millennium of the Christian era (like our own) 
were one another’s contemporaries indeed. 

Thus history, in the sense of the histories of the human 
societies called civilizations, revealed itself as a sheaf of 
parallel, contemporary, and recent essays in a new enter- 
prise: a score of attempts, up to date, to transcend the level 
of primitive human life at which man, after having become 
himself, had apparently lain torpid for some hundreds of 

[ 8 ] 


thousands of years-and was still, in our day, so lying in 
out-of-the-way places like New Guinea, Tierra del' Fuego 
and the north-eastern extremity of Siberia, where such 
primitive human communities had not yet been pounced 
upon and either exterminated or assimilated by the aggres- 
sive pioneers of other human societies that, unlike these 
sluggards, had now, though this only recently, got on the 
move again. The amazing present difference in cultural 
level between various extant societies was brought to my 
attention by the works of Professor Teggart of the Uni- 
versity of California. This far-going differentiation had 
all happened within these brief last five or six thousand 
years. Here was a promising point to probe in investigating, 
sub specie temporis, the mystery of the universe. 

What was it that, after so long a pause, had so recently 
set in such vigorous motion once again, towards some new 
and still unknown social and spiritual destination, those 
few societies that had embarked upon the enterprise called 
civilization? What had roused them from a torpor that 
the great majority of human societies had never shaken 
off? This question was simmering in my mind when, in 
the summer of 1920, Professor Namier— who had already 
put Eastern Europe on my map for me— placed in my 
hands Oswald Spengler’s Untergang des Abendlandes. As I 
read those pages teeming with firefly flashes of historical 
insight, I wondered at first whether my whole inquiry 
had been disposed of by Spengler before even the ques- 
tions, not to speak of the answers, had fully taken shape 
in my own mind. One of my own cardinal points was 
that the smallest intelligible fields of historical study were 
whole societies and not arbitrarily insulated fragments of 
them like the nation-states of the modern West or the city- 
states of the Graeco-Roman world. Another of my points 

[ 9 ] 


was that the histories of all societies of the species called 
civilizations were in some sense parallel and contemporary; 
and both these points were also cardinal in Spengler’s sys- 
tem. But when I looked in Spengler’s book for an answer 
to my question about the geneses of civilizations, I saw 
that there was still work for me to do, for on this point 
Spengler was, it. seemed to me, most unilluminatingly 
dogmatic and deterministic. According to him, civiliza- 
tions arose, developed, declined, and foundered in unvary- 
ing conformity with a fixed time-table, and no explanation 
was offered for any of this. It was just a law of nature 
which Spengler had detected, and you must take it on trust 
from the master: ipse dixit. This arbitrary fiat seemed dis- 
appointingly unworthy of Spengler’s brilliant genius; and 
here I became aware of a difference in national traditions. 
Where the German a priori method drew blank, let us 
see what could be done by English empiricism. Let us 
test alternative possible explanations in the light of the 
facts and see how they stood the ordeal. 

Race and environment were the two main rival keys that 
were offered by would-be scientific nineteenth-century 
Western historians for solving the problem of the cultural 
inequality of various extant human societies, and neither 
key proved, on trial, to unlock the fast-closed door. To 
take the race theory first, what evidence was there that the 
differences in physical race between different members of 
the genus homo were correlated with differences on the 
spiritual plane which was the field of history? And, if the 
existence of this correlation were to be assumed for the 
sake of argument, how was it that members of almost all 
the races were to be found among the fathers of one or 
more of the civilizations? The black race alone had made 
no appreciable contribution up to date; but, considering 



the shortness of the time during which the experiment of 
civilization had been on foot so far, this was no cogent 
evidence of incapacity; it might merely be the consequence 
of a lack of opportunity or a lack of stimulus. As for en- 
vironment, there was, of course, a manifest similarity be- 
tween the physical conditions in the lower Nile valley 
and in the lower Tigris-Euphrates valley, which had been 
the respective cradles of the Egyptian and Sumerian civili- 
zations; but, if these physical conditions were really the 
cause of their emergence, why had no parallel civilizations 
emerged in the physically comparable valleys of the Jordan 
and the Rio Grande? And why had the civilization of 
the equatorial Andean plateau had no African counter- 
part in the highlands of Kenya? The breakdown of these 
would-be scientific impersonal explanations drove me to 
turn to mythology. I took this turning rather self-con- 
sciously and shamefacedly, as though it were a provoca- 
tively retrograde step. I might have been less diffident if 
I had not been ignorant, as I was at that date, of the new 
ground broken by psychology during the war of 1914-18. 
If I had been acquainted at the time with the works of 
C. G. Jung, they would have given me the clue. I actually 
found it in Goethe’s Faust, in which I had fortunately 
been grounded at school as thoroughly as in Aeschylus 

Goethe’s ‘Prologue in Heaven’ opens with the archangels 
hymning the perfection of God’s creation. But, just be- 
cause His works are perfect, the Creator has left Himself 
no scope for any further exercise of His creative powers, 
and there might have been no way out of this impasse if 
Mephistopheles— created for this very purpose-had not 
presented himself before the throne and challenged God 
to give him a free hand to spoil, if he can, one of the 


Creator’s choicest works. God accepts the challenge and 
thereby wins an opportunity to carry His work of creation 
forward. An encounter between two personalities in the 
form of challenge and response: have we not here the flint 
and steel by whose mutual impact the creative spark is 

In Goethe’s exposition of the plot of the Divina Corn- 
media, Mephistopheles is created to be diddled— as the fiend, 
to his disgust, discovers too late. Yet if, in response to the 
Devil’s challenge, God genuinely puts His created works 
in jeopardy, as we must assume that He does, in order to 
win an opportunity of creating something new, we are 
also bound to assume that the Devil does not always lose. 
And thus, if the working of challenge-and-response ex- 
plains the otherwise inexplicable and unpredictable geneses 
and growths of civilizations, it also explains their break- 
downs and disintegrations. A majority of the score of 
civilizations known to us appear to have broken down al- 
ready, and a majority of this majority have trodden to the 
end the downward path that terminates in dissolution. 

Our post mortem examination of dead civilizations does 
not enable us to cast the horoscope of our own civilization 
or of any other that is still alive, face Spengler, there seems 
to be no reason why a succession of stimulating challenges 
should not be met by a succession of victorious responses 
ad infinitum. On the other hand, when we make an em- 
pirical comparative study of the paths which the dead 
civilizations have respectively travelled from breakdown 
to dissolution, we do here seem to find a certain measure 
of Spenglerian uniformity, and. this, after all, is not sur- 
prising. Since breakdown means loss of control, this in 
turn means the lapse of freedom into automatism, and, 
whereas free acts are infinitely variable and utterly unpre- 



dictable, automatic processes are apt to be uniform and 

Briefly stated, the regular pattern of social disintegra- 
tion is a schism of the disintegrating society into a recalci- 
trant proletariat and a less and less effectively dominant 
minority. The process of disintegration does not proceed 
evenly; it jolts along in alternating spasms of rout, rally, 
and rout. In the last rally but one, the dominant minority 
succeeds in temporarily arresting the society’s lethal self- 
laceration by imposing on it the peace of a universal state. 
Within the framework of the dominant minority’s uni- 
versal state the proletariat creates a universal church, and 
after the next rout, in which the disintegrating civilization 
finall y dissolves, the universal church may live on to be- 
come the chrysalis from which a new civilization eventually 
emerges. To modern Western students of history, these 
phenomena are most familiar in the Graeco-Roman ex- 
amples of the Pax Romano, and the Christian Church. The 
establishment of the Pax Ro?mna by Augustus seemed, at 
the time, to have put the Graeco-Roman world back upon 
firm foundations after it had been battered for several 
centuries by perpetual war, mis-government, and revolu- 
tion. But the Augustan rally proved, after all, to be no 
more than a respite. After two hundred and fifty years of 
comparative tranquillity, the Empire suffered in the third 
century of the Christian era a collapse from which it never 
fully recovered, and at the next crisis, in the fifth and sixth 
centuries, it went to pieces irretrievably. The true benefi- 
ciary of the temporary Roman Peace was the Christian 
Church. The Church seized this opportunity to strike root 
and spread; it was stimulated by persecution until the Em- 
pire, having failed to crush it, decided, instead, to take it 
into partnership. And, when even this reinforcement failed 



to save the Empire from destruction, the Church took 1 over 
the Empire’s heritage. The same relation between a declin- 
ing civilization and a rising religion can be observed in a 
dozen other cases. In the Far East, for instance, the Ts’in 
and Han Empire plays the Roman Empire’s part, while 
the role of the Christian Church is assumed by the Maha- 
yana school of Buddhism. 

If the death of one civilization thus brings on the birth 
of another, does not the at first sight hopeful and exciting 
quest for the goal of human endeavours resolve itself, 
after all, into a dreary round of vain repetitions of the 
Gentiles? This cyclic view of the process of history was 
taken so entirely for granted by even the greatest Greek 
and Indian souls and intellects— by Aristotle, for instance, 
and- by the Buddha— that they simply assumed that it was 
true without thinking it necessary to prove it. On the other 
hand, Captain Marryat, in ascribing the same view to the 
ship’s carpenter of HMS 'Rattlesnake, assumes with equal 
assurance that this cyclic theory is an extravaganza, and 
he makes the amiable exponent of it a figure of fun. To 
our Western minds the cyclic view of history, if taken 
seriously, would reduce history to a tale told by an idiot, 
signifying nothing. But mere repugnance does not in itself 
account for effortless unbelief. The traditional Christian 
beliefs in hell fire and in the last trump were also repug- 
nant, yet they continued to be believed for generations. 
For our fortunate Western imperviousness to the Greek 
and Indian belief in cycles we are indebted to the Jewish 
and Zoroastrian contributions to our Weltanschammg. 

In the vision seen by the Prophets of Israel, Judah, and 
Iran, history is not a cyclic and not a mechanical process. 
It is the masterful and progressive execution, on the narrow 
stage of this world, of a divine plan which is revealed to 



us in this fragmentary glimpse, but which transcends our 
human powers of vision and understanding in every di- 
mension. Moreover, the Prophets, through their own ex- 
perience, anticipated Aeschylus’ discovery that learning 
comes through suffering— a discovery which we, in our 
time and circumstances, have been making too. 

Shall we opt, then, for the Jewish-Zoroastrian view of 
history as against the Graeco-Indian? So drastic a choice 
may not, after all, be forced upon us, for it may be that 
the two views are not fundamentally irreconcilable. After 
all, if a vehicle is to move forward on a course which its 
driver has set, it must be borne along on wheels that turn 
monotonously round and round. While civilizations rise 
and fall and, in falling, give rise to others, some purposeful 
enterprise, higher than theirs, may all the time be making 
headway, and, in a divine plan, the learning that comes 
through the suffering caused by the failures of civilizations 
may . be the sovereign means of progress. Abraham was an 
emigre from a civilization in extremis ; the Prophets were 
children of another civilization in disintegration; Chris- 
tianity was bom of the sufferings of a disintegrating 
Graeco-Roman world. Will some comparable spiritual en- 
lightenment be kindled in the 'displaced persons’ who are 
the counterparts, in our world, of those Jewish exiles to 
whom so much was revealed in their painful exile by the 
waters of Babylon? The answer to this question, whatever 
the answer may be, is of greater moment than the still 
inscrutable destiny of our world-encompassing Western 




Where does mankind stand in the year 1947 of the Chris- 
tian era? This question no doubt concerns the whole living 
generation throughout the world; but, if it were made the 
subject of a world-wide Gallup Poll, there would be no 
unanimity in the answer. On this matter, if any, quot 
homines , tot sententiae ; so we must ask ourselves in the 
same breath: To whom is our question being addressed? 
For example, the writer of the present paper is a middle- 
class Englishman of fifty-eight. Evidently his nationality, 
his social milieu, and his age, between them, will in large 
measure determine the standpoint from which he views the 
world panorama. In fact, like each and all of us, he is 
more or less the slave of historical relativity. The only 
personal advantage that he can claim to possess is that he 
happens also to be a historian, and is therefore at least 
aware that he himself is a piece of sentient flotsam on the 
eddying surface of the stream of time. Realizing this, he 
knows that his fleeting and fragmentary vision of the 
passing scene is no more than a caricature of the surveyor’s 
chart. God alone knows the true picture. Our individual 
human apergus are shots in the dark. 



The writer’s mind runs back fifty years, to an afternoon 
in London in the year 1897. He is sitting with his father 
at a window in Fleet Street and watching a procession 
of Canadian and Australian mounted troops who have 
come to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. 
He can still remember his excitement at the unfamiliar, 
picturesque uniforms of these magnificent ‘colonial’ troops, 
as they were still called in England then: slouch hats in- 
stead of brass helmets, grey tunics instead of red. To an 
English child, this sight gave a sense of new life astir in 
the world; a philosopher, perhaps, might have reflected 
that, where there is growth, there is likely also to be decay. 
A poet, watching the same scene, did, in fact, catch and 
express an intimation of something of the kind. Yet few 
in the English crowd gazing at that march past of overseas 
troops in London in 1897 were in the mood of Kipling’s 
Recessional. They saw their sun standing at its zenith and 
assumed that it was there to stay— without their even need- 
ing to give it the magically compelling word of command 
which Joshua had uttered on a famous occasion. 

The author of the tenth chapter of the Book of Joshua 
was at any rate aware that a stand-still of Time was some- 
thing unusual. ‘There was no day like that before it or 
after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man.’ 
Yet the middle-class English in 1897, who thought of 
themselves as Wellsian rationalists living in a scientific age, 
took their imaginary miracle for granted. As they saw it, 
history, for them, was over. It had come to an end in 
foreign affairs in 1815, with the Battle of Waterloo; in 
home affairs in 1832, with the Great Reform Bill; and in 
imperial affairs in 1859, with the suppression of the Indian 
Mutiny. And they had every reason to congratulate them- 
selves on the permanent state of felicity which this ending 



of history had conferred on them. ‘The lines are fallen 
unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.’ 

Viewed from the historical vantage point of a.d. 1947, 
this fin de siecle middle-class English hallucination seems 
sheer lunacy, yet it was shared by contemporary Western 
middle-class people of other nationalities. In the United 
States, for instance, in the North, history, for the middle 
class, had come to an end with the winning of the West 
and the Federal victory in the Civil War; and in Germany, 
or at any rate in Prussia, for the same class, the same per- 
manent consummation had been reached with the over- 
throw of France and foundation of the Second Reich in 
1871. For these three batches of Western middle-class 
people fifty years ago, God’s work of creation was com- 
pleted, ‘and behold it was very good.’ Yet, though in 
1897 the English, American, and German middle class, 
between them, were the political and economic masters 
of the world, they did not amount, in numbers, to more 
than a very small fraction of the living generation of man- 
kind, and there Were other people abroad who saw things 
differently— even though they might be impotent and in- 

In the South, for example, and in France, there were in 
1897 many people who agreed with their late conquerors 
that history had come to an end: The Confederacy would 
never rise from the dead; Alsace-Lorraine would never be 
recovered. But this sense of finality, which was so gratify- 
ing to top dog, did not warm a defeated people’s heart. 
For them it was nothing but a nightmare. The Austrians, 
still smarting from their defeat in 1866, might have felt 
the same if the stirrings of submerged nationalities inside 
an Empire whose territory Bismarck had left intact had 
not begun, by this time, to make the Austrians feel that 



history was once more on the move and might have still 
worse blows than Koniggratz in store for them. English 
liberals at the time were indeed talking freely, and with 
approval, of a coming liberation of subject nationalities in 
Austria-Hungary and the Balkans. But, in spite of the 
spectre of Home Rule and the stirrings of ‘Indian unrest,’ 
it did not occur to them that, in South-Eastern Europe, 
they were greeting the first symptoms of a process of 
political liquidation which was to spread, in their lifetime, 
to both India and Ireland and, in its irresistible progress 
round the world, was to break up other empires besides 
the Hapsburg Monarchy. 

All over the world, in fact, though at that time still 
under the surface, there were peoples and classes who were 
just as discontented as the French or the Southerners were 
with the latest deal of history’s cards, but who were quite 
unwilling to agree that the game was over. There were 
all the subject peoples and all the depressed classes, and 
what millions they amounted to! They included the whole 
vast population of the Russian Empire of the day, from 
Warsaw to Vladivostok: Poles and Finns determined to 
win their national independence; Russian peasants deter- 
mined to gain possession of the rest of the land of which 
they had been given so meagre a slice in the reforms of 
the eighteen-sixties; Russian intellectuals and business men 
who dreamed of one day governing their own country 
through parliamentary institutions, as people of their kind 
had long been governing the United States, Great Britain, 
and France; and a young and still small Russian industrial 
proletariat that was being turned revolutionary-minded by 
living conditions that were grim enough, though perhaps 
less so than those of early nineteenth-century Manchester. 
The industrial working class in England had, of course, im- 

[193 " 


proved their position very notably since the opening of 
the nineteenth century, thanks to the factory acts, the 
trades unions, and the vote (they had been enfranchised 
by Disraeli in 1867). Still, in 1897, they could not, and 
did not, look back on the Poor Law Act of 1834, as the 
.middle class did look back on the Reform Bill of 1832, 
as history’s last word in wisdom and beneficence. They 
were not revolutionary, but, on constitutional lines, they 
were resolved to make the wheels of history move on. As 
for the Continental European working class, they were 
capable of going to extremes, as the Paris Commune of 
1871 had shown in an ominous lightning flash. 

This deep desire for changes and the strong resolve to 
bring them about by one means or another were not, after 
all, surprising in the underdog, as represented by under- 
privileged classes and defeated or unliberated peoples. It 
was strange, though, that the apple-cart should be upset, 
as it was in 1914, by the Prussian militarists’ (who in truth 
had as little to gain and as much to lose as the German, 
English, and American middle class) deliberately tearing 
open again history’s insecurely closed book. 

The subterranean movements that could have been de- 
tected, even as far back as 1897, by a social seismologist 
who put his ear to the ground, go far to explain the up- 
heavals and eruptions that have signalized the resumption 
of history’s Juggernaut march during the past half-century. 
To-day, in 1947, the Western middle class which, fifty 
years ago, was sitting carefree on the volcano’s crust, is 
suffering something like the tribulation which, a hundred 
to a hundred and fifty years ago, was inflicted by Jugger- 
naut’s car on the English industrial working class. This is 
the situation of the middle class to-day not only in Ger- 
many, France, the Low Countries, Scandinavia, and Great 



Britain, but also in some degree in Switzerland and Sweden, 
and even in the United States and Canada. The future of 
the Western middle class is in question now in all Western 
countries; but the outcome is not simply the concern of 
the small fraction of mankind directly affected; for this 
Western middle class— this tiny minority— is the leaven 
that in recent times has leavened the lump and has thereby 
created the modern world. Could the creature survive its 
creator? If the Western middle class broke down, would 
it bring humanity’s house down with it in its fall? What- 
ever the answer to this fateful question may be, it is clear 
that what is a crisis for this key-minority is inevitably also 
a crisis for the rest of the world. 

It is always a test of character to be baffled and ‘up 
against it,’ but the test is particularly severe when the 
adversity comes suddenly at the noon of a halcyon day 
which one has fatuously expected to endure to eternity. 
In straits like these, the wrestler with destiny is tempted 
to look for bugbears and scapegoats to carry the burden 
of his own inadequacy. Yet to ‘pass the buck’ in adversity 
is still more dangerous than to persuade oneself that pros- 
perity is everlasting. In the divided world of 1947, Com- 
munism and Capitalism are each performing this insidious 
office for one another. Whenever things go awry in cir- 
cumstances that seem ever more intractable, we tend to 
accuse the enemy of having sown tares in our field and 
thereby implicitly excuse ourselves for the faults in our 
own husbandry. This is, of course, an old story. Centuries 
before Communism was heard of, our ancestors found 
their bugbear in Islam. As lately as the sixteenth century, 
Islam inspired the same hysteria in Western hearts as Com- 
munism in the twentieth century, and this essentially for 
the same reasons. Like Communism, Islam was an anri- 



Western movement which was at the same time a heretical 
version of a Western faith; and, like Communism, it 
wielded a sword of the spirit against which there was no 
defence in material armaments. 

The present Western fear of Communism is not a fear 
of military aggression such as we felt in face of a Nazi 
Germany and a militant Japan. The United States at any 
rate, with her overwhelming superiority in industrial po- 
tential and her monopoly of the ‘know-how’ of the atom 
bomb, is at present impregnable against military attack by 
the Soviet Union. For Moscow, it would be sheer suicide 
to make the attempt, and there is no evidence that the 
Kremlin has any intention of committing such a folly. 
The Communist weapon that is making America so jumpy 
(and, oddly enough, she is reacting more temperamentally 
to this threat than the less sheltered countries of Western 
Europe) is the spiritual engine of propaganda. Communist 
propaganda has a ‘know-how’ of its own for showing up 
and magnifying the seamy side of our Western civilization 
and for making Communism appear a desirable alternative 
way of life to a dissatisfied faction of Western men and 
women. Communism is also a competitor for the allegiance 
of that great majority of mankind that is neither Com- 
munist nor Capitalist, neither Russian nor Western, but 
is living at present in an uneasy no-man’s-land between the 
opposing citadels of the two rival ideologies. Both non- 
descripts and Westerners are in danger of turning Com- 
munist to-day, as they were of turning Turk four hundred 
years ago, and, though Communists are in similar danger 
of turning Capitalist— as sensational instances have shown 
—the fact that one’s rival witch-doctor is as much afraid 
of one’s own medicine as one is afraid, oneself, of his, 
does not do anything to relieve the tension of the situation. 

[22 ] 


Yet the fact that our adversary threatens us by showing 
up our defects, rather than by forcibly suppressing our 
virtues, is proof that the challenge he presents to us comes 
ultimately not from him, but from ourselves. It comes, in 
fact, from that recent huge increase in Western man’s 
technological command over non-human nature— his stu- 
pendous progress in ‘know-how’— which was just what 
gave our fathers the confidence to delude themselves into 
imagining that, for them, history was comfortably over. 
Through these triumphs of clockwork the Western middle 
class has produced three undesigned results— unprecedented 
in history— whose cumulative impetus has set Juggernaut’s 
car rolling on again with a vengeance. Our Western ‘know- 
how’ has unified the whole world in the literal sense of 
the whole habitable and traversable surface of the globe; 
and it has inflamed the institutions of War and Class, which 
are the two congenital diseases of civilization, into utterly 
fatal maladies. This trio of unintentional achievements pre- 
sents us with a challenge that is formidable indeed. 

War and Class have been with us ever since the first 
civilizations emerged above the level of primitive human 
life some five or six thousand years ago, and they have al- 
ways been serious complaints. Of the twenty or so civili- 
zations known to modern Western historians, all except 
our own appear to be dead or moribund, and, when we 
diagnose each case, in extremis or post mortem, we invari- 
ably find that the cause of death has been either War or 
Class or some combination of the two. To date, these two 
plagues have been deadly enough, in partnership, to kill 
off nineteen out of twenty representatives of this recently 
evolved species of human society; but, up to now, the 
deadliness of these scourges has had a saving limit. While 
they have been able to destroy individual specimens, they 

[ 23 3 


have failed to destroy the species itself. Civilizations have 
come and gone, but Civilization (with a big ‘C’) has suc- 
ceeded, each time, in re-incarnating itself in fresh exemplars 
of the type; for, immense though the social ravages of 
War and Class have been, they have not ever yet been all- 
embracing. When they have shattered the top strata of a 
society, they have usually failed to prevent the underlying 
strata from surviving, more or less intact, and clothing 
themselves with spring flowers on exposure to the light 
and air. And when one society has collapsed in one quarter 
of the world it has not, in the past, necessarily dragged 
down others with it. When the early civilization of China 
broke down in the seventh century b.c., this did not pre- 
vent the contemporary Greek civilization, at the other 
end of the Old World, from continuing to rise towards 
its zenith. And when the Graeco-Roman civilization finally 
died of the twin diseases of War and Class in the course 
of the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries of the Christian 
era, this did not prevent a new civilization from suc- 
cessfully coming to birth in the Far East during those same 
three hundred years. 

Why cannot civilization go on shambling along, from 
failure to failure, in the painful, degrading, but not utterly 
suicidal way in which it has kept going for the first few 
thousand years of its existence? The answer lies in the 
recent technological inventions of the modem Western 
middle class. These gadgets for harnessing the physical 
forces of non-human nature have left human nature un- 
changed. The institutions of War and Class are social re- 
flexions of the seamy side of human nature— or what the 
theologians call original sin— in the kind of society that we 
call civilization. These social effects of individual human 
sinfulness have not been abolished by the recent portentous 

C *4] 


advance in our technological ‘know-how,’ but they have 
not been left unaffected by it either. Not having been 
abolished, they have been enormously keyed up, like the 
rest of human life, in respect of their physical potency. 
Class has now become capable of irrevocably disintegrating 
Society, and War of annihilating the entire human race. 
Evils which hitherto have been merely disgraceful and 
grievous have now become intolerable and lethal, and, 
therefore, we in this Westernized world in our genera- 
tion are confronted with a choice of alternatives which 
the ruling elements in other societies in the past have al- 
ways been able to shirk— with dire consequences, invari- 
ably, for themselves, but not at the extreme price of bring- 
ing to an end the history of mankind on this planet. We 
are thus confronted with a challenge that our predecessors 
never had to face: We have to abolish War and Class— 
and abolish them now— under pain, if we flinch or fail, of 
seeing them win a victory over man which, this time, 
would be conclusive and definitive. 

The new aspect of war is already familiar to Western 
minds. We are aware that the atom bomb and our many 
other new lethal weapons are capable, in another war, of 
wiping out not merely the belligerents but the whole of 
the human race. But how has the evil of class been 
heightened by technology? Has not technology already 
notably raised the minimum standard of living— at any 
rate in countries that have been specially efficient or spe- 
cially fortunate in being endowed with the riches of nature 
and being spared the ravages of war? Can we not look for- 
ward to seeing this rapidly rising minimum standard raised 
to so high a level, and enjoyed by so large a percentage of 
the human race, that the even greater riches of a still more 
highly favoured minority will cease to be a cause of heart- 

’ [25] 


burning? The flaw in this line of reasoning is that it leaves 
out of account the vital truth that man does not live by- 
bread alone. However high the minimum standard of his 
material living may be raised, that will not cure his soul 
of demanding social justice; and the unequal distribution 
of this world’s goods between a privileged minority and an 
underprivileged majority has been transformed from -an 
unavoidable evil into an intolerable injustice by the latest 
technological inventions of Western man. 

When we admire aesthetically the marvellous masonry 
and architecture of the Great Pyramid or the exquisite" 
furniture and jewelry of Tut-ankh-Amen’s tomb, there is 
a conflict in our hearts between our pride and pleasure in 
such triumphs of human art and our moral condemnation 
of the human price at which these triumphs have been 
bought: the hard labour unjustly imposed on the many 
to produce the fine flowers of civilization for the exclusive 
enjoyment of a few who reap where they have not sown. 
During these last five or six thousand years, the 'masters 
of the civilizations have robbed their slaves of their share 
in the fruits of society’s corporate labours as cold-bloodedly 
as we rob our bees of their honey. The moral ugliness 
of the unjust act mars the aesthetic beauty of the artistic 
result; yet, up till now, the few favoured beneficiaries of 
civilization have had one obvious common-sense plea to 
put forward in their own defence. 

It has been a choice, they have been able to plead, be- 
tween fruits of civilization for the few and no fruits at 
all. Our technological command over nature is severely 
limited. We have at our command neither sufficient muscle- 
power nor sufficient labour to turn out our amenities in 
more than minute quantities. If I am to deny these to 
myself just because you cannot all have them too, we shall 



have to shut up shop and allow one of the finest talents 
of human nature to rust away buried in a napkin; and, 
while that is certainly not in my interest, it is surely not 
in yours either on a longer view. For I am not enjoying 
this monopoly of amenities exclusively for my own benefit. 
My enjoyment is at least partly vicarious. In indulging 
myself at your expense, I am in some sense serving as a 
kind of trustee for all future generations of the whole 
human race. This plea was a plausible one, even in our 
technologically go-ahead Western world, down to the 
eighteenth century inclusive, but our unprecedented tech- 
nological progress in the last hundred and fifty years has 
made the same plea invalid to-day. In a society that has 
discovered the ‘know-how’ of Amalthea’s cornucopia, the 
always ugly inequality in the distribution of this world’s 
goods, in ceasing to be a practical necessity, has become 
a moral enormity. 

Thus the problems that have beset and worsted other 
civilizations have come to a head in our world to-day. We 
have invented the atomic weapon in a world partitioned 
between two supremely great powers; and the United 
States and the Soviet Union stand respectively for two 
opposing ideologies whose antithesis is so extreme that, 
as it stands, it seems irreconcilable. Along what path are 
we to look for salvation in this parlous plight, in which 
we hold in our hands the choice of life or death not only 
for ourselves but for the whole human race? Salvation per- 
haps lies, as so often, in finding a middle way. In politics, 
this golden mean would be something that was neither the 
unrestricted sovereignty of parochial states nor the unre- 
lieved despotism of a centralized world government; in 
economics it would be something that was neither unre- 
stricted private enterprise nor unmitigated socialism. As 



one middle-aged middle-class West European observer sees 
the world to-day, salvation cometh neither from the East 
nor from the West. 

In a.d. 1947, the United States and the Soviet Union 
are alternative embodiments of contemporary man’s tre- 
mendous material power; ‘their line is gone out through 
all the Earth, and their words to the end of the World,’ 
but in the mouths of these loud-speakers one does not hear 
the still small voice. Our cue may still be given us by the 
message of Christianity and the other higher religions, and 
the saving words and deeds may come from unexpected 




Does history repeat itself? In our Western world in the 
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this question used to 
be debated as an academic exercise. The spell of well-being 
which our civilization was enjoying at the time had dazzled 
our grandfathers into the quaint pharisaical notion that 
they were ‘not as other men are’; they had come to believe 
that our Western society was exempt from the possibility 
of falling into those mistakes and mishaps that have been 
the ruin of certain other civilizations whose history, from 
beginning to end, is an open book. To us, in our genera- 
tion, the old question has rather suddenly taken on a new 
and very practical significance. We have awakened to the 
truth (how, one wonders, could we ever have been blind 
to it? ) that Western man and his works are no more in- 
vulnerable than the now extinct civilizations of the Aztecs 
and the Incas, the Sumerians and the Hittites. So to-day, 
with some anxiety, we are searching the scriptures of the 
past to find out whether they contain a lesson that we 
can decipher. Does history give us any information about 
our own prospects? And, if it does, what is the burden of 
it? Does it spell out for us an inexorable doom, which we 



can merely await with folded hands— resigning ourselves, 
as best we may, to a fate that we cannot avert or even 
modify by our own efforts? Or does it inform us, not of 
certainties, but of probabilities, or bare possibilities, in our 
own future? The practical difference is vast, for, on this 
second alternative, so far from being stunned into passivity, 
we should be roused to action. On this second alternative, 
the lesson of history would not be like an astrologer’s 
horoscope; it would be like a navigator’s chart, which 
affords the seafarer who has the intelligence to use it a 
much greater hope of avoiding shipwreck than when he 
was sailing blind, because it gives him the means, if he 
has the skill and courage to use them, of steering a course 
between charted rocks and reefs. 

It will be seen that our question needs defining before 
we plunge into an attempt to answer it. When we ask 
ourselves ‘Does history repeat itself? ’ do we mean no more 
than ‘Does history turn out to have repeated itself, on 
occasions, in the past?’ Or are we asking whether history 
is governed by inviolable laws which have not only taken 
effect in every past case to which they have applied but 
are also bound to take effect in every similar situation that 
may arise in the future? On this second interpretation, the 
word ‘does’ would mean ‘must’; on the other interpreta- 
tion it would mean ‘may.’ On this issue, the writer of the 
present article may as well put his cards on the table at 
once. He is not a determinist in his reading of the riddle 
of human life. He believes that where there is fife there is 
hope, and that, with God’s help, man is master of his own 
destiny, at least to some extent in some respects. 

But as soon as we have taken our stand on this issue 
between freedom and necessity that is raised by the am- 
biguous word ‘does,’ we find ourselves called upon to 



define what we mean by the word ‘history.’ If we have 
to limit the field of history to events that are wholly within 
the control of human wills, then, to be sure, for a non-de- 
terminist no difficulty would arise. But do such events ever 
actually occur in real life?, In our personal experience, 
when we are making a decision, do we not always find 
ourselves only partly free and partly bound by past events 
and present facts in our own life and in our social and 
physical environment? Is not history itself, in the last 
analysis, a. vision of the whole universe on the move in the 
four-dimensional framework of space-time? And, in this 
all-embracing panorama, are there not many events that 
the most staunch believer in the freedom of the human 
will would admit, as readily as the most thorough-going 
determinist, to be inexorably recurrent and precisely pre- 

Some events of this undisputedly recurrent predictable 
order may have little apparent bearing upon human affairs 
—as, for example, the repetitions of history in nebulae out- 
side the system of the Milky Way. There are, however, 
some very obvious cyclic movements in physical nature 
that do affect human affairs in the most intimate fashion- 
as, for example, the recurrent predictable alternations of 
day and night and of the seasons of the year. The day- 
and-night cycle governs all human work; it dictates the 
schedules of the transportation systems of our cities, sets 
the times of their rush hours, and weighs on the minds of 
the commuters whom it shuttles to and fro, twice in every 
twenty-four hours, between ‘dormitory’ and ‘workshop.’ 
The cycle of the seasons governs human life itself by 
governing our food supply. 

It is true that man, by taking thought, can win a measure 
of freedom from these physical cycles that is beyond the 



reach of birds and beasts. Though the individual cannot 
break the tyranny of the day-and-night cycle by leading a 
waking life for twenty-four hours in the day, like the 
legendary Egyptian Pharaoh Mycerinus, human society 
can achieve Mycerinus’ mythical feat collectively by a 
planned co-operation and a division of labour. Industrial 
plants can be operated for twenty-four hours in the day 
by successive shifts of workers, and the labours of workers 
who work by day can be prepared for and be followed 
up by the labours of other workers who rest by day and 
work by night. The tyranny of the seasons, again, has 
been broken by a Western society that has expanded from 
the northern temperate zone into the tropics and the 
southern temperate zone and has devised a technique of 
refrigeration. Nevertheless, these triumphs of man’s mind 
and will over the tyranny of the two physical cycles of 
the day and the year are comparatively small gains for 
human freedom, remarkable though these triumphs are. 
On the whole, these recurrent predictable events in physi- 
cal nature remain masters of human life— even at the pres- 
ent level of Western man’s technology— and they show 
their mastery by subduing human affairs, as far as their 
empire over them extends, to their own recurrent predict- 
able pattern. 

But are there, perhaps, human acts, in other fields of 
action, that are not— or, at any rate not so completely— 
under physical nature’s control? Let us examine this ques- 
tion in a familiar concrete case. When, in the last days of 
April 1865, the horses that, in the first days of that month, 
had been the cavalry and artillery horses of the Army of 
Northern Virginia, were being driven behind the plough 
by the men who, at the beginning of that April, had been 
General Lee’s cavalrymen and artillerymen, those men and 



horses were once again performing an annually recurrent 
agricultural operation which they themselves had per- 
formed a number of times before in their lives and which 
predecessors of theirs, in the Old W orld before Europeans 
discovered the New World, and in other societies before 
our Western society’s birth, had been performing, year by 
year, for some five or six thousand years past. The inven- 
tion of ploughing is coeval with the species of society 
that we call civilizations, and pre-plough methods of agri- 
culture— likewise governed by the year cycle— were al- 
ready in use for perhaps an equal length of time before 
that, during the neolithic dawn by which the sunrise of 
civilization was heralded. In the spring of 1865, agriculture 
in the ex-Confederate States of North America was gov- 
erned by the seasons very rigidly. A few weeks’ delay, 
and the season would have been too late— with the disas- 
trous consequence that the food-producing capacities of 
those horses and men would have been lost to the com- 
munity for a whole year longer. 

Thus, in the last days of April 1865, the horses and men 
of the former Army of Northern Virginia were perform- 
ing a historical act— the spring ploughing— which had re- 
peated itself, by that date, some five or six thousand times 
at least, and was still repeating itself in 1947. (In that year 
the writer of this article witnessed the spring ploughing 
in Kentucky, and noted the farmers’ anxiety when, in 
the middle of that April, their work was interrupted by 
heavy rainfall.) 

But what about the history that General Lee’s horses 
and men were making, not at the end of April, but at the 
beginning? Is the kind of history that is represented by 
the last act of the Civil War a kind that repeats itself— as 
ploughing and commuting repeat themselves owing to their 

[ 33 ] 


close and obvious dependence on recurrent predictable 
cycles in physical nature? Are we not confronted here 
with a kind of human action that is more or less inde- 
pendent of physical cycles and is capable of overriding 
them? Suppose that General Lee had not found himself 
constrained to capitulate till June 1865? Or suppose that, 
General Lee having capitulated when he did, General 
Grant had not been moved to make his celebrated con- 
cession of allowing the Confederate soldiers who had just 
laid down their arms to take their horses back with them 
to their farms, notwithstanding the contrary provision in 
the terms of surrender that had just been agreed upon. 
Would not either of these hypothetical man-made varia- 
tions on the actual course of historical events have pre- 
vented history from repeating itself in the Southern States 
in the spring ploughing of 1865? 

The province of history that we are considering now 
is one that used to be treated as the whole field of history 
before the provinces of economic and social history were 
opened up. In this old-fashioned field of battles and policies, 
captains and kings, does history turn out to have repeated 
itself as it does in fields of human activity that are mani- 
festly governed by cycles in the movement of physical 
nature? Was the Civil War, for instance, a unique event, 
or do we find other historical events that display sufficient 
similarity and affinity to it to warrant us in treating it 
and them as so many representatives of a class of events 
in which history has repeated itself at least to some extent? 
The present writer inclines to this latter view. 

The crisis represented in American history by the Civil 
War was, surely, repeated in a significant sense in the con- 
temporary crisis in German history that is represented 
by the Bismarckian wars of 1864-71. In both cases, an 

[ 34 ] 


imperfect political union had threatened to dissolve al- 
together. In both cases, the issue between the dissolution 
of the union and its effective establishment was decided 
by war. In both cases, the partisans of effective union won, 
and, in both, one of the causes of their victory was their 
technological and industrial superiority over their oppo- 
nents. In both, finally, the victory of the cause of union 
was followed by a great industrial expansion which turned 
both the post-bellum United States and the Second Ger- 
man Reich into formidable industrial competitors of Great 
Britain. And here we have hit upon another repetition 
of history; for, throughout the century ending about 1870, 
the industrial revolution in Great Britain might have ap- 
peared to be a unique historical event, whereas, since 1870, 
it has come to appear, in its true light, as simply the earliest 
instance of an economic transformation which was even- 
tually to occur likewise in a number of other Western 
countries and in some non-Western countries too. More- 
over, if we shift our attention from the economic common 
feature of industrialization to the political common feature 
of federal union, we shall see the history of the United 
States and Germany at this point repeating itself once 
again in the history of a third country— in. this case not 
Great Britain but Canada, whose constituent provinces 
entered into their present federation in 1867, two years 
after the de facto re-establishment of the unity of the 
United States in 1865 and four years before the foundation 
of the Second German Reich in 1871. 

In the formation, in the modern Western world, of a 
number of federal unions, and in the industrialization of 
these and other countries, we see history repeating itself 
in the sense of producing a number of more or less con- 
temporary examples of the same human achievement. The 

[ 35 ] 


contemporaneity of the different instances is, however, 
no more than approximate. The industrial revolution oc- 
curred as an apparently unique event in Great Britain at 
least two generations before its occurrence in America, 
and Germany proved it to be a repetitive phenomenon. 
The insecurely welded pre-Civil-War United States had 
existed for ‘four score and seven years,’ and the ramshackle 
post-Napoleonic German Confederation for half a century, 
before the crucial events of the eighteen-sixties proved 
that federal union was a repetitive pattern which was to 
recur not only in Canada but in Australia, South Africa, 
and Brazil. Contemporaneity is not an essential condition 
for the repetition of history on the political and cultural 
plane of human affairs. The historical events that repeat 
themselves may be strictly contemporary or they may over- 
lap in time or they may be entirely non-contemporaneous 
with one another. 

The picture remains the same when we turn to the 
consideration of the greatest human institutions and ex- 
periences that are known to us: the civilizations in their 
births and growths, their breakdowns, declines, and falls; 
the higher religions in their foundation and evolution. 
Measured by our subjective personal measuring rod of the 
average span of the memory of a single human being who 
lives to a normal old age, the time interval that divides 
our present generation from the date of the emergence of 
the Sumerian civilization in the fourth millennium b.c. 
or from the date of the beginning of the Christian era 
itself seems, no doubt, a very long one. Yet it is infinitesi- 
mally small on the objective time scale that has recently 
been given to us by the discoveries of our geologists and 
astronomers. Our modern Western physical science tells 
us drat the human race has been in existence on this planet 

[ 36 ] 


for at least 600,000 and perhaps a million years, life for 
at least 500 million and perhaps 800 million years, and the 
planet itself for possibly 2000 million years. On this time 
scale the last five or six thousand years that have seen the 
births of civilizations, and the last three or four thousand 
years that have seen the births of higher religions are 
periods of such infinitesimal brevity that it would be im- 
possible to show them, drawn to scale, on any chart of the 
whole history of this planet up to date. On this true time 
scale, these events of ‘ancient history’ are virtually con- 
temporary with our own lifetime, however remote they 
may appear to be when viewed through the magnifying 
lens of the individual human midget’s subjective mental 

The conclusion seems to be that human history does 
turn out, on occasions, to have repeated itself up to date 
in a significant sense even in spheres of human activity 
in which the human will is at its nearest to being master 
of the situation and is least under the domination of cycles 
in physical nature. Must we go on to conclude that, after 
all, the determinists are right and that what looks like free 
will is an illusion? In the present writer’s opinion, the cor- 
rect conclusion is just the opposite. As he sees it, this 
tendency towards repetition, which thus asserts itself in 
human affairs, is an instance of one of the well-known 
devices of the creative faculty. The works of creation are 
apt to occur in bunches: a bunch of representatives of a 
species, a bunch of species of a genus. And the value of 
such repetitions is, after all, not difficult to discern. Crea- 
tion could hardly make any headway at all if each new 
form of creature were not represented by numerous eggs 
distributed among numerous baskets. How else could a 
creator, human or divine, provide himself with sufficient 

[ 37 ] 


materials for bold and fruitful experiment and with effec- 
tive means of retrieving inevitable failures? If human his- 
tory repeats itself, it does so in accordance with the general 
rhythm of the universe; but the significance of this pattern 
of repetition lies in the scope that it gives for the work of 
creation to go forward. In this light, the repetitive element 
in history reveals itself as an instrument for freedom of 
creative action, and not as an indication that God and man 
are the slaves of fate. 

What is the bearing of these conclusions about history 
in general on the particular question of the prospects of 
our Western civilization? As we observed at the beginning 
of this paper, the Western world has become rather sud- 
denly very anxious about its own future, and our anxiety 
is a natural reaction to the formidableness of the situation 
in which we now find ourselves. Our present situation is 
formidable indeed. A survey of the historical landscape in 
the light of our existing knowledge shows that, up to date, 
history has repeated itself about twenty times in producing 
human societies of the species to which our Western society 
belongs, and it also shows that, with the possible exception 
of our own, all these representatives of the species of so- 
ciety called civilizations are already dead or moribund. 
Moreover, when we study the histories of these dead and 
moribund civilizations in detail, and compare them with 
one another, we find indications of what looks like a re- 
curring pattern in the process of their breakdowns, de- 
clines, and falls. We are naturally asking ourselves to-day 
whether this particular chapter of history is bound to re- 
peat itself in our case. Is that pattern of decline and fall 
in store for us in our turn, as a doom from which no 
civilization can hope to escape? In the writer’s opinion, 
the answer to this question is emphatically in the negative. 

[38 3 


The effort to create a new manifestation of life — be it a 
new species of mollusc or a new species of human society 
—seldom or never succeeds at the first attempt. Creation 
is not so easy an enterprise as that. It wins its ultimate suc- 
cesses through a process of trial and error; and accordingly 
the failure of previous experiments, so far from dooming 
subsequent experiments to fail in their turn in the same 
way, actually offers them their opportunity of achieving 
success through the wisdom that can be gained from suf- 
fering. Of course a series of previous failures does not 
guarantee success to the next comer, any more than it 
condemns him to be a failure in his turn. There is nothing 
to prevent our Western civilization from following histori- 
cal precedent, if it chooses, by committing social suicide. 
But we are not doomed to make history repeat itself; it is 
open to us, through our own efforts, to give history, in 
our case, some new and unprecedented turn. As human 
beings, we are endowed with this freedom of choice, and 
we cannot shuffle off our responsibility upon the shoulders 
of God or nature. We must shoulder it ourselves. It is up 
to us. 

What shall we do to be saved? In politics, establish a 
constitutional co-operative system of world government. In 
economics, find working compromises (varying according 
to the practical requirements of different places and times) 
between free enterprise and socialism. In the life of the 
spirit, put the secular super-structure back onto religious 
foundations. Efforts are being made in our Western world 
to-day to fin 1 our way towards each of these goals. If 
we had arrived at all three of them, we might fairly feel 
that we had won our present battle for our civilization’s 
survival. But these are, all of them, ambitious undertakings, 
and it will call for the hardest work and the highest courage 

[ 39 ] 


to make any progress at all towards carrying any one of 
them through to achievement. 

Of the three tasks, the religious one is, of course, in 
the long run by far the most important, but the other two 
are the more urgent, because, if we were to fail in these in 
the short run, we might lose for ever our opportunity of 
achieving a spiritual rebirth which cannot just be whistled 
for at our convenience, but will only come, if it comes 
at all, at the unhurrying pace at which the deepest tides 
of spiritual creation flow. 

The political task is the most urgent of all. The immedi- 
ate problem here is a negative one. Faced, as we are, with 
the prospect that— given our present interdependence and 
present weapons— the world is now on the eve of being 
unified politically by one means or another, we have to 
stave off the disastrous denouement of unification by force 
of arms: the familiar method of the forcible imposition of a 
Pax Romana which is probably the line of least resistance 
for the resolution of the formidable political forces in 
whose grip our own world finds itself to-day. Can the 
United States and the other Western countries manage to 
co-operate with the Soviet Union through the United 
Nations? If the United Nations organization could grow 
into an effective system of world government, that would 
be much the best solution of our political crux. But we have 
to reckon with the possibility of this enterprise’s failing, and 
to be ready, should it fail, with an alternative to fall back 
upon. Could the United Nations split, de -facto , into two 
groups without a breach of the peace? And, supposing that 
the whole face of the planet could be partitioned peacefully 
into an American and a Russian sphere, could two worlds 
on one planet live side by side on a footing of ‘non-violent 
non-co-operation’ for long enough to give a chance for a 



gradual mitigation of the present differences in their social 
and ideological climates? The answer to this question would 
depend on whether, on these terms, we could buy the time 
needed to carry out our economic task of finding a middle 
way between free enterprise and socialism. 

These riddles may be hard to read, but they do tell us . 
plainly what we most need to know. They tell us that 
our future largely depends upon ourselves. We are not 
just at the mercy of an inexorable fate. 




I am going to start from a point that has been made by 
Professor Gilbert Murray . 1 His point is that, in the Graeco- 
Roman world, the written word had a function that was 
not unlike that of the typescript which a speaker is re- 
quired to have in front of him at Broadcasting House when 
he is talking over the radio. Like the present-day broad- 
caster’s typescript, the Graeco-Roman ‘book’ was really 
a system of mnemonics for conjuring up winged words, 
and not a book in our sense of something intended for 
reading to oneself, like the ordinary printed volume that is 
produced nowadays by publishers. 

However, the Graeco-Roman world did not include 
the whole of mankind at any time in its history. There 
were always other worlds in existence side by side with 
it; and some of these other worlds had the extreme op- 

1 See Murray, G. G. A.: Greek Studies (Oxford 1946 Clarendon 
Press) : ‘Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Literature.’ This paper of 
Professor Murray’s was originally delivered as a lecture in a course of 
‘prolegomena’ . organized by him for undergraduates of the University 
of Oxford who were just starting to read for the School of Literae 
Humaniores . The lecture on which the present paper is based was the 
next after Professor Murray’s in this course. 



posite way of looking at a book. In the Syrian world, 
for instance, to which the Jews belonged, a book was 
certainly not regarded as a mere mnemonic aid to human 
discourse. It was revered as the revealed word of God: 
a sacred object, in which every jot and titde on the written 
page had a magical potency and therefore an immeasur- 
able importance. 

It is one of the curiosities of history that our own tradi- 
tional way of studying the Greek and Latin classics is 
derived from the Jewish way of studying the Law and 
the Prophets. In other words, we handle these Greek and 
Latin books in an utterly different way from that in which 
they were used, and were meant to be used, by their 
authors and their broadcasters at the time when they 
were made. 

Our Jewish Rabbinical way of studying a book has 
merits which are so obvious that one need not dwell on 
them. When once one has been drilled into this discipline, 
one continues, for the rest of one’s life, to read every- 
thing with a closeness and thoroughness which is, most 
certainly, much better than the way in which one reads 
a newspaper en route to one’s office. This is a lesson which 
is never to be forgotten, but it is not the last lesson to 
be learnt from a study of the Graeco-Roman civilization. 
We cannot resign ourselves to that drastic and misleading 
limitation of outlook which is the defect of the virtue of 
the microscopic, intensive Rabbinical study of a sacred 
book or a classic. The Rabbinical outlook has two vices. 
It inclines one to think of a book as a thing in itself — 
something static and dead— instead of seeing it, for what 
it is, as the material track or echo or debris of human 
action (for intellectual acts are as authentic a form of 
action as exertions of will power or of physical energy). 

[ 43 ] 


The second vice is really the same thing stated in more 
general or philosophic terms. The Rabbinical method of 
study makes one inclined to think of life in terms of books 
instead of vice versa. The opposite method— which is the 
Greek line of approach— is to study books not just for 
their own sake, but also because they are the key to the 
life of the people who wrote them. 

If, following the Rabbinical rather than the Hellenic 
line, one were to concentrate his attention upon some 
particular period of Greek or Roman history for the sake 
of some famous literary work of that age which happens 
to have survived to the present day, one’s historical vision 
might be very badly distorted; because the survival of 
certain portions of Greek and Latin literature, and the 
loss of other parts, has been determined by known his- 
torical causes; and these causes, in themselves, have nothing 
to do with the question whether the ages that produced 
the surviving literature were historically important and 
the ages that produced the lost literature were historically 
of no account. 

To show what I mean, I shall put the surviving Latin 
books aside for a moment and take the surviving Greek 
books first. If one runs through a list of surviving Greek 
books, one finds that the vast majority of them were 
written in either one or the other of two periods which 
are separated from one another by a gap of some three 
centuries. The most famous— ‘the classics’ par excellence— 
were written within a period extending over not more 
than five or six generations and ending in the generation 
of Demosthenes (i.e. approximately between 480 and 320 
b.c.). But there is another surviving group which begins 
in the last century b.c. with writers like Diodorus Siculus 
and Strabo. This later group of surviving Greek authors is 

[ 44 ] 


perhaps larger in bulk than the earlier group, and it con- 
tains such famous names as Plutarch and Lucian and Ar- 
rian and Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. Substantially, our 
surviving Greek literature dates either from the ‘Classical’ 
or from the ‘Imperial’ age. The surviving works of the 
intervening ‘Hellenistic age’ are either short or fragmen- 

Why is this? The selection looks odd and arbitrary at 
first sight, but we happen to know the reason for it. The 
reason is that, in the generation of Augustus, the Graeco- 
Roman world, which had been going to pieces during the 
four centuries ending in the year 3 1 b.c.— the year of the 
Battle of Actium— made a desperately earnest, and tempo- 
rarily successful, effort to pull itself together. Psycho- 
logically, this effort took the form of a sort of homesick- 
ness for what now looked like a golden age in the past, 
an age in which Greek life had apparently been a happier 
and more splendid thing than it was in the last century 
b.c. And the people who felt like this in that later age 
sought salvation in archaism: in a deliberate attempt at an 
artificial resurrection of past happiness and beauty and 
greatness. One can study this archaistic movement of the 
‘Imperial age’ in religion and in literature. In literature, 
it led people to repudiate the modern ‘Hellenistic’ style, to 
admire and study the mediaeval Attic style, and to be- 
come indifferent to the preservation of Greek books which 
were not either the Attic originals themselves or else ultra- 
modern neo-Attic imitations of them. 

Now this does explain why our surviving Greek litera- 
ture represents the ‘Imperial age’ and the ‘Classical age’ 
almost exclusively, and why the literature of the inter- 
vening ‘Hellenistic age’ has mostly dropped out. But, if one 
is a historian, this does not make one feel: ‘Well then, the 

[ 45 ] 


“Hellenistic age” cannot be worth studying.’ On the con- 
trary, the historian thinks to himself: ‘This difference in 
the degree of happiness and success and civilization be- 
tween the Graeco-Roman world in the last century b.c. 
and the Greek world in the fifth century b.c. is something 
extraordinary— and something terrible; for the people in 
the last century b.c. were plainly right. In the intervening 
age there had been an enormous regression, an immense 
set-back. How and why did that set-back take place?’ 
The historian sees that the Graeco-Roman world achieved 
a rally in the generation of Augustus after the Battle of 
Actium. He also sees that the preceding breakdown began 
with the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, four cen- 
turies earlier. For him, the vitally interesting problem is: 
What was it that went wrong in the fifth century and 
continued to go wrong until the last century b.c.? Now, 
the solution of this problem can only be found by study- 
ing Greek and Roman history as a continuous story with a 
plot that is one and indivisible. And, therefore, from the 
historian’s point of view, it is a defect in our traditional 
curriculum that, while it makes sure that one shall study 
the first chapter of this story by reading Thucydides and 
study the last chapter by reading Cicero, it gives one very 
little encouragement to study the intervening chapters be- 
cause these do not happen to be recorded in any conse- 
crated and canonical ‘classical’ work of either Greek or 
Latin literature. And yet, if these middle chapters are left 
out, the Thucydidean and the Ciceronian chapters, left 
stranded at either end of the story, become shapeless bits 
of wreckage out of which it is impossible to reconstruct 
either the true build of the ship or the true story of the 

Let us imagine a hypothetical parallel in the history of 



our own world. Let us anticipate the situation after the 
next war , 2 when Great Britain, as well as Continental 
Europe, will have been bombed to bits, and our Western 
civilization quite destroyed in its original European home, 
with the consequence that nothing is ever going to happen 
in Europe any more. That hypothetical picture of Europe 
as she may be before the end of the twentieth century 
corresponds, of course, to the real picture of Greece as 
she actually was by the last century b.c. Then, let us sup- 
pose to ourselves that the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ variety of our 
Western civilization has just managed to survive— maimed 
and stunted and barbarized— in the overseas English-speak- 
ing countries. After that, let us picture the Americans and 
Australians making a great effort to salvage the remnants 
of their hereditary European culture, and, in particular, 
to recover and safeguard the purity of their English speech 
and English literary style. Well, what, in these circum- 
stances, will they do? They will decree that the only 
‘classical’ English is the English of Shakespeare and Milton; 
they will teach nothing but this English henceforward in 
their schools and write nothing but this English— or what 
they fancy to be the Shakespearian and Miltonic idiom- 
in their newspapers and magazines. And, as life will have 
become rather nasty and brutish, and the market for books 
will have very much fallen off, they will allow all the in- 
tervening literature in the English language, from Dryden 
to Masefield inclusive, to go out of print . 3 That, I think, 
is an accurate analogy, in our own terms, of what actually 
happened to Greek literature. But, suppose this did happen 

2 The lecture on which this paper is based was delivered in the inter- 
war period 1918-39. 

8 At the time when these words were written, the author did not 
foresee that he himself would live to witness the partial translation of 
his fancy into fact. 



in our own case; suppose that, for some reason or other, 
the whole of English literature, from the Restoration to 
the post- Victorians inclusive, were discredited and for- 
gotten, would it be wise to infer from this that the 
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in which the bulk of 
this lost literature had been written, were centuries of no 
consequence in the history of our Western world? 

Let us now turn to the Latin books. And I will ask my 
readers to think of these Latin ‘classics’— though the con- 
ception of them that I am going to suggest may seem rather 
surprising at first thoughts— as an appendage to the surviv- 
ing Greek works of the ‘Imperial age’; as a version of Greek 
literature in a Latin dress. The earliest complete extant 
works in Latin, the surviving plays of Plautus and Terence, 
are undisguised translations of ‘Hellenistic’ Greek originals. 
And I should say that, in a rather subtler sense, the whole 
of Latin literature— including even such masterpieces as 
the poems of Virgil— is in essence a version of Greek 
originals translated into the Latin. After all, I can quote 
the second most famous of all the Latin poets for my pur- 
pose. Indeed, the tag is so well worn that I hardly dare 
bring it out. 

Conquered Greece took her savage conqueror captive, and 
introduced the arts into rustic Latium: 

Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit, et artes intulit agresti 


We all know the passage, and we all know that it is 
true. The mere linguistic difference between the Latin and 
Greek languages creates no division of literary style and 
no break in literary history. After all, our own modem 
Western literature is conveyed in a dozen different ver- 
nacular languages— Italian, French, Spanish, English, Ger- 

[ 48 ] 


man, and the rest— yet no one would dream of saying that 
these were really all separate literatures or that any of 
them would or could be what it actually is if there had 
not been a perpetual give-and-take between all these 
modern Western vernaculars for centuries. Dante, Shake- 
speare, Goethe, and the other giants— they are all exponents 
of a literature that is one and indivisible. The difference 
between these different linguistic vehicles is of minor im- 
portance. Latin literature stands, I should say, to Greek 
as English literature stands to Italian and French. 

Or let us look at the relation between Latin literature 
and Greek literature in another way. Let us employ the 
simile of a wave and think of the Graeco-Roman civiliza- 
tion as a movement in a spiritual medium— an emission of 
spiritual energy— which wells up from a spring of original 
inspiration in Greece and radiates its influence outwards 
from Greece in all directions in concentric waves. It is in 
the nature of a wave, when it is passing through a resistant 
medium, to become weaker and fainter the farther it travels 
outwards from its point of emission until, eventually, at 
a certain distance, it dies away. And now let us follow the 
course of the wave of Greek literature as it travels out- 
wards from Greece. 

At the outset, near home, the wave is so powerful that 
it carries along with it the use of the Greek language. 
When Xanthus the Lydian takes to writing history in 
the Greek style in the fifth century b.c., he employs not 
only the Greek style but the Greek language as well; and, 
as far afield in this direction as Cappadocia in the fourth 
century of the Christian era, the wave of Greek literature 
is still strong enough to carry the Greek language with it. 
This foreign Greek is used by the Cappadocians-Gregory 
of Nazianzus and the rest-when they are roused into 

[ 49 ] 


literary activity in the fourth century after Christ because 
the wave of Greek influence has now just reached them. 
But, a century or so later, when the same wave, travelling 
still farther afield, reaches Syria and Armenia, it has be- 
come so weak that it has had to leave the Greek language 
behind; and the literature which is now produced, under 
Greek influence, by Syrians and Armenians is written not 
in Greek, but in the Syriac and Armenian languages. 

And now let us follow the same wave as it travels in 
the opposite direction— not eastwards but westwards. In 
this direction, when it reaches Sicily it is still so strong 
that it simply sweeps away the non-Greek local language 
of the native Sicilians. So far as we know, no literary works 
were ever written in this Sikel language in Sicily, any more 
than any were ever written in Lydian in Asia Minor. The 
Greek language was overpowering at this short range. I 
have already referred to the work written in the Greek 
language by a historian who lived in the last century b.c.: 
Diodorus Siculus. This Diodorus was a genuine Sikel and 
not a Siceliot or Greek colonist on Sicilian soil. His native 
city, Agyrium, was a Sikel city, in the interior of the 
island, where no Greek colony had ever been planted. 
Yet Diodorus writes in Greek as a matter of course. All 
the same, there was, in Diodorus’s day, a version of the 
Greek literature in the Sikels’ native language which was 
beginning to produce great works of art. But this was 
happening farther afield, half way up the Italian peninsula, 
in Latium, at a range at which the wave of Greek influence, 
expanding from Greece, was weaker. This continental 
Italian version of Greek literature was being produced in 
Latium in the living local Latin language of the country, 
with which the extinct Sikel language of Sicily seems to 
have been almost identical. When the wave of Greek liter- 

[ 50 ] 


ary influence got as far as Latium, travelling westwards, 
it dropped the Greek language and took to the local ver- 
nacular-just as it dropped Greek and took to Syriac and 
Armenian after it had travelled about the same distance 

This conception of the Greek civilization as a kind of 
radiation out of Greece— a four-dimensional radiation in 
space-time— may also be illustrated from the history of 
coinage. In the fourth century b.c. King Philip of Macedon 
opened up a number of gold and silver mines in the 
Thracian territories which he conquered and annexed in 
the neighbourhood of Mount Pangaeus. And he used the 
proceeds to issue a copious coinage. This coinage not only 
served to corrupt the politicians in the city-states of the 
Greek peninsula; it also spread north-westwards into the 
interior of Continental Europe. Philip’s coins passed from 
hand to hand and were imitated in one barbarian mint 
after another, until this coinage-wave actually crossed 
the Channel and spread into the island of Britain. The 
numismatists have been able to' put together an almost 
continuous series, ranging from Philip’s original issues of 
the fourth century b.c. to the British imitations which were 
struck two or three centuries later. (It took this wave 
several centuries to travel that far.) There are sets of this 
series in our museums, and a feature which we have al- 
ready observed in our literature-wave comes out in the 
coinage-wave still more strongly. As the wave moves 
farther and farther away in space from its original place 
of emission, and farther and farther away in time from its 
orig inal date of issue, it grows weaker and weaker. The 
Latin version of Greek literature is palpably inferior to 
the Greek original; and similarly, but to a far more gro- 
tesque degree, the British imitations of King Philip’s coins 



are inferior to the original mintage. In the latest and re- 
motest coins of the series, the Macedonian King’s image, 
and the superscription in Greek characters in the Greek 
language, have degenerated into a meaningless pattern. 
If we did not happen to possess examples of the inter- 
mediate terms in the series, we should never have known 
that there was any line of artistic affiliation between these 
later British coins and their Macedonian original. One could 
not have guessed that the pattern on the British coins was 
derived historically from an inscription in Greek, sur- 
rounding a human face. 

Before we throw aside this simile of radiation, we may 
remind ourselves of another wave of Greek civilization 
which has had a different and more surprising— and to my 
mind much more interesting— outcome. When one looks at 
a modern Japanese print or at a mediaeval Chinese painting 
—dating, say, from the period of the Sung Dynasty— one is 
not immediately reminded of the Greek style of art. In- 
deed, one’s first impression is that he is face to face here 
with an art that is even more foreign from the Greek than 
it is from our own. And yet, if we take some Far Eastern 
work of art from the Far Eastern artistic golden age— say, 
the fifth to the thirteenth centuries of the Christian era 
—we can do the same thing that we have done already with 
those British coins of the last century b.c. We can bring 
together a continuous series of works of art which stretches 
backwards in time from the second millennium of the 
Christian era, and westwards in space from China through 
the Tarim Basin and the Oxus and Jaxartes Basin and 
Afghanistan and Persia and ‘Iraq and Syria and Asia Minor, 
until we arrive at the same point in space and time to 
which we are led back in our series of coin types: that is 
to say, back to the ‘classical’ art of Greece in the age 



before the generation of Alexander. As we travel back 
over the wake of this wave, a Japanese portrayal of the 
Buddha melts into a Greek portrayal of Apollo by in- 
sensible degrees. 

But there is, of course, one obvious difference between 
the wave which begins in classical Greece and ends in a 
British coin and this other wave which likewise begins 
in classical Greece but ends in a Japanese painting of a 
landscape or statue of a Bodhisattva. In both cases, the 
historical connexion between the last term in the series and 
the first is unrecognizable until the intermediate terms 
have been fitted into their places; but the two curves— to 
think in a mathematical image— are quite different in char- 
acter. In the series of coin types, we have a simple instance 
of degeneration. The art becomes poorer and poorer, 
steadily, as it recedes farther in space and in time from 
the Greece of the fourth century b.c. In the other curve, 
which ends not in Gaul and Britain but in China and 
Japan, the beginning is the same. As the Greek art of the 
‘Hellenistic’ and the early ‘Imperial’ age spreads eastward, 
across the dead body of the defunct Persian Empire, until 
it reaches Afghanistan, it becomes more and more con- 
ventional and commercial and lifeless. And then some- 
thing like a miracle happens. This fast degenerating Greek 
art collides in Afghanistan with another spiritual force 
which is radiating out of India: the Mahayana form of 
Buddhism. And the degenerating Greek art unites with 
the Mahayana to produce a distinctively new and intensely 
creative civilization: the Mahayanian Buddhist civilization 
which has travelled north-eastward across Asia to become 
the civilization of the Far East. 

Here we have stumbled upon a wonderful property of 
these spiritual waves of radiation. Though their natural 

[53 ] 


tendency is to weaken as they travel outwards, this tend- 
ency may be overcome and counteracted if two waves, 
travelling outwards from two different centres, happen 
to collide and coalesce. The coalescence of a Greek wave 
with an Indian wave has generated the Buddhist civiliza- 
tion of the Far East. But there is, of course, another in- 
stance of the same miracle which is much more familiar to 
us. The same Greek wave has also coalesced with a Syrian 
wave, and it is this union that has generated the Christian 
civilization of our Western world. 

So much for this simile of waves of radiation. It is an 
illuminating way of looking at the histories of civilizations 
up to a point— but only up to a point. If we take it too 
seriously and do not discard it when we have made the 
most of it, it may become an obstacle to our seeing farther 
still. These metaphorical applications of the processes of 
inanimate nature to the delineation of life, and particularly 
human life,- are perhaps peculiarly dangerous nowadays 
just because they are so much in fashion. Not so long ago, 
the danger was all the other way. We used to think of the 
processes of inanimate nature anthropomorphically, and 
the progress of physical science was seriously hindered 
until this anthropomorphic, mythological habit of looking 
at physical nature was broken. We have, I think, broken 
it effectively. In our physical science, we are thoroughly 
on our guard nowadays against the so-called ‘pathetic 
fallacy.’ But perhaps, in extricating ourselves from the 
‘pathetic fallacy,’ we have fallen unawares into an opposite 
‘apathetic fallacy’— which is every bit as fallacious. We 
tend, because this feels and sounds ‘scientific,’ and because 
science nowadays enjoys prestige, to think and talk about 
human beings as though they were sticks and stones and 
about life as though it were a stream of radiation or a con- 



stellation of protons and electrons. This may be a con- 
venient simile, but it is, I am sure, a false route. Let us step 
out of this rut and set ourselves to think and speak of 
human civilizations in human terms. 

In human terms, how are we to describe the Greek 
civilization, or our own Western civilization, or any other 
of the ten or twenty civilizations which we can count up 
on our fingers? In human terms, I should say that each of 
these civilizations is, while in action, a distinctive attempt 
at a single great common human enterprise, or, when it is 
seen, in retrospect, after the action is over, it is a distinctive 
instance of a single great common human experience. This 
enterprise or experience is an effort to perform an act of 
creation. In each of these civilizations, mankind, I think, 
is trying to rise above mere humanity— above primitive 
humanity, that is— towards some higher kind of spiritual 
life. One cannot depict the goal because it has never been 
reached— or, rather, I should say that it has never been 
reached by any human society. It has, perhaps, been 
reached by individual men and women. At least, I can 
think of certain saints and sages who seem to me, in their 
personal lives, to have reached the goal, at least in so far 
as I myself am able to conceive what the goal may be like. 
But if there have been a few transfigured men and women, 
there has never been such a thing as a civilized society. 
Civilization, as we know it, is a movement and not a condi- 
tion, a voyage and not a harbour. No known civilization 
has, ever reached the goal of civilization yet. There has 
never been a communion of saints on earth. In the least 
uncivilized society at its least uncivilized moment, the vast 
majority of its members have remained very near indeed 
to the primitive human level. And no society has ever been 
secure of holding such ground as it has managed to gain 

C 55 3 


in its spiritual advance. All the civilizations that we know 
of, including the Greek, have already broken down and 
gone to pieces with the single possible exception of our 
own Western civilization— and no child of this civilization 
who has been born into our generation can easily imagine 
that our own society is immune from the danger of suffer- 
ing the common fate. 

Now civilizations, I believe, come to birth and proceed 
to grow by successfully responding to successive chal- 
lenges. They break down and go to pieces if and when 
a challenge confronts them which they fail to meet. Not 
unnaturally, there are challenges that present themselves 
in the histories of more than one civilization. And the 
peculiar interest of Graeco-Roman history for us lies in 
the fact that the Greek civilization broke down in the fifth 
century b.c. through failing to find a successful response 
to the very challenge which is confronting our own West- 
ern civilization in our own lifetime. 

If we unwind the scroll of Greek history, we find our- 
selves studying both the presentation of this fateful chal- 
lenge and the disastrous failure to discover an answer to 
it. In order to suggest what this challenge was, I must re- 
call the salient events in the history of the Greek world 
before the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War in 431 b.c. 
The first event is the creation of the city-states that brought 
law and order out of a social interregnum in the coast- 
lands of the Aegean Sea which had followed the downfall 
of the Minoan maritime empire. The next event is a pres- 
sure of population upon means of subsistence in the home 
of the new civilization in Ionia and in continental Euro- 
pean Greece. The third event is an easing of this pressure 
by a colonial expansion all over the Mediterranean: the 
foundation of colonial Greek city-states on barbarian 



ground. The fourth event is the stoppage of this Greek 
colonial expansion, in the course of the sixth century b.c., 
partly through the successful resistance of the native vic- 
tims and partly through the political consolidation of the 
Greeks’ own rivals in the competitive colonization of the 
western Mediterranean from the Levant: the Carthaginian 
and Etruscan powers on the west and the Lydian Empire, 
succeeded by the much greater Persian Empire, on the 
east. (From the Greek standpoint the Persian Empire meant 
not so much the Persians as the Phoenicians of the Phoeni- 
cian homeland in Syria, whose hands were strengthened 
by Persian support.) 

In what we think of as the most brilliant age of the 
Greek civilization— the late sixth and early fifth centuries 
b.c.— the Greeks themselves had the feeling of being 
hemmed in and hampered and hard pressed. As Thucyd- 
ides saw it, from the age of Cyrus and Darius onwards 

Hellas was repressed from all sides over a long period 
of time, with the consequence that, in this period, she 
neither performed any great co-operative achievement 
nor showed any enterprise in the parochial life of the 
individual city-state communities. [Thucydides, Book i, 
chap. 17] 

As Herodotus saw it, 

The three successive generations covered by the reigns 
of Darius Hystaspes-son and Xerxes Darius-son and 
Artaxerxes Xerxes-son saw Hellas overwhelmed by more 
troubles than she had had to suffer from first to last 
during the twenty generations preceding Darius’ ac- 
cession. [Herodotus, Book vi, chap. 98] 

But, as a matter of fact, this was the very age in which 
the Greek society succeeded in solving the new economic 

[57 ] 


problem which had been presented to it by the stoppage 
of its geographical expansion. The problem now was how 
to obtain an increasing amount of subsistence for a still 
growing population out of a geographical area which had 
become stationary instead of continuing to expand. In 
Greek history, this problem was solved by a successful 
change-over from a merely extensive to a more or less in- 
tensive economic system: from mixed farming for mere 
local subsistence to specialized farming for export. And 
this revolution in agriculture produced a general revolu- 
tion in Greek economic life, since the new specialized agri- 
culture called for complementary developments in com- 
merce and manufacture. One is studying this Greek eco- 
nomic revolution when one studies the history of Athens 
in the two generations of Solon and Peisistratus. This Attic 
economic revolution corresponds, historically, to the Eng- 
lish industrial revolution at the turn of the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries of our era, and it solved the Greek 
economic problem of the sixth century b.c. But the solu- 
tion of the economic problem raised, in turn, a political 
problem which the Greek civilization failed to solve; and 
this political failure was the cause of its breakdown. 

The new political problem may be Stated in the follow- 
ing way. So long as the economic life of each city-state 
remained parochial, they could all still afford to be paro- 
chial in their political life as well. The parochial sovereignty 
of each city-state, vis-d-vis every other, might and did breed 
perpetual petty wars, yet, in the economic circumstances 
of the age, these wars were not deadly in their social effects. 
But the new economic system, introduced by the Attic 
economic revolution under the spur of the stoppage of 
Greek colonial expansion, was based on local production 

l 58 ] 


for international exchange. It could only work successfully 
if, on the economic plane, the city-states gave up their 
parochialism and became interdependent. And a system 
of international economic interdependence could only be 
made to work if it could be brought within the framework 
of a system of international political interdependence: 
some international system of political law and order which 
would place a restraint upon the anarchic parochial 
sovereignty of the local city-states. 

An international political order was offered, ready-made, 
to the Greek city-states of the sixth and fifth centuries 
b.c. by the Lydian and Persian and Carthaginian Empires. 
The Persian Empire systematically imposed orderly politi- 
cal relations upon the Greek city-states which it subju- 
gated; and Xerxes attempted to complete this work by 
proceeding to subjugate the still independent remnant of 
the Greek world. These still unconquered Greek city- 
states resisted Xerxes desperately— and successfully— be- 
cause they rightly believed that a Persian conquest would 
take the life out of their civilization. They not only saved 
their own independence but they also liberated the pre- 
viously subjugated city-states of the Archipelago and the 
Asiatic mainland. But, having rejected the Persian solution 
to a Greek political problem, the Greek victors were con- 
fronted with the task of finding some other solution. And 
it was here that they failed. Having defeated Xerxes in the 
years 480 and 479 b.c., they were defeated between 478 
and 43 1 b.c. by themselves. 

The Greeks’ attempt at an international political order 
was the so-called Delian League founded in 478 b.c. by 
Athens and her allies under Athenian leadership. And it 
is worth noticing, in passing, that the Delian League was 

[ 59 ] 


modelled on a Persian pattern. One sees this if one com- 
pares the accounts of the system which the Athenian states- 
man Aristeides induced the liberated cities to accept in 
478 b.c. with the account— in Herodotus Book vi, chapter 
42— of the system which had been imposed upon these 
self-same cities by the Persian authorities after the sup- 
pression of the so-called ‘Ionian Revolt’ some fifteen years 
before. But the Delian League failed to achieve its purpose. 
And the old political anarchy in the relations between the 
sovereign independent Greek city-states broke out again 
under new economic conditions which made this anarchy 
not merely harmful but deadly. 

The destruction of the Graeco-Roman civilization 
through the failure to replace an international anarchy by 
some kind of international law and order occupies the his- 
tory of the four hundred years from 431 to 31 b.c. After 
these four centuries of failure and misery there came, in 
the generation of Augustus, a partial and temporary rally. 
The Roman Empire— which was really an international 
league of Greek and other, culturally related, city-states— 
may be regarded as a tardy solution of the problem which 
the Delian League had failed to solve. But the epitaph of 
the Roman Empire is ‘too late.’ The Graeco-Roman society 
did not repent until it had inflicted mortal wounds on 
itself with its own hands. The Pax Romana was a peace of 
exhaustion, a peace which was not creative and therefore 
not permanent. It was a peace and an order that came four 
centuries after its due time. One has to study the history 
of those four melancholy intervening centuries in order 
to understand what the Roman Empire was and why it 

My conclusion is that we should look at this story as a 



whole. It is only when it is viewed as a whole that it throws 
its light upon our own situation in our own world in our 
day. But, if one does succeed in obtaining this light from 
it, it proves, experto crede, to be most amazingly illuminat- 



Familiarity is the opiate of the imagination; and, just 
because every Western schoolboy knows that the oceanic 
voyages of discovery made by West European mariners 
some four and a half centuries ago were an epoch-making 
historical event, adult Western minds are apt to take the 
consequences for granted. In addressing myself to a West- 
ern public I shall therefore make no apology for pointing 
out how dramatic and how revolutionary the effect of 
our ocean-faring ancestors’ exploit has been. It has pro- 
duced nothing less than a complete transformation of the 
map of the world— not, of course, the physical map, but 
the human ‘lay-out’ of that portion of the surface of our 
planet that is traversable and habitable by mankind and 
that the Greeks used to call the oixoupivn. 

This Western-made change in man’s human environ- 
ment will be my first topic, but it leads on to two 
others. External changes of this magnitude usually evoke 
corresponding re-adjustments in people’s attitudes; and, 
sure enough, when we look around us, we can see that, 

[ 62 ] 


among the great majority of mankind, the effects of those 
Western voyages of discovery— recent though they are on 
even the shortest-sighted historical time-scale— have in fact 
already brought about a drastic change in historical out- 
look. This will be my second topic, but it will bring up a 
third by laying bare a paradox. The majority of mankind 
that I here have in mind is, of course, the non-Western 
part, and the paradox is that to-day we Westerners are the 
only people in the world whose outlook on history still 
remains pre-da Gaman. Personally, I do not believe that 
this antediluvian Western traditional historical outlook is 
going to last much longer. 1 have no doubt that a re- 
orientation is in store for us in our turn, and in our case, 
I fancy, it will be one in the literal meaning of the word. 
But why should we wait for History, like some eighteenth- 
century Prussian drill-sergeant, to take us by the scruff of 
the neck and twist our heads straight for us? Though our 
neighbours have recently been re-educated in this un- 
pleasant and humiliating way, we ought surely to do bet- 
ter, for we cannot plead that we have been taken by sur- 
prise, as they were. The facts stare us in the face, and, by 
exercising our historical imagination, we can perhaps an- 
ticipate the compulsory education that is already on its 
way to us. The Greek Stoic philosopher Cleanthes prays 
Zeus and Fate for grace to follow their lead of his own 
will without flinching; ‘for if,’ he adds, ‘I quail and rebel, 
I shall have to follow just the same.’ 

Let us now plunge into our subject by reminding our- 
selves of the revolutionary change in the map. 

One knows that mankind, being human, is always and 
everywhere in danger of exaggerating the historical im- 
portance of contemporary events because of their personal 
importance to the particular generation that happens to 



be overtaken by them. All the same, I will hazard the 
guess that, when the age in which we ourselves are living 
has been left sufficiently far behind to be seen by future 
historians in a revealingly remote perspective, the particu- 
lar contemporary event with which we are now concerned 
will stand out like a mountain peak on the horizon of the 
past. By ‘the age in which we are living’ I mean the last 
five or six thousand years withifi which mankind, after 
having been human for at least six hundred thousand years 
before that, attained the modest level of social and moral 
achievement that we call ‘civilization.’ I call the recent 
change in the map ‘contemporary’ because the four or five 
centuries during which it has been taking place are a 
twinkling of an eye on the time-scale that our geologists 
and astronomers have now revealed to us. And, when I 
am trying to picture to myself the perspective in which the 
events of these last few thousand years will appear to 
future historians, I am thinking of historians living 20,000 
or 100,000 years later than the present date— taking it on 
faith from our modern Western scientists that there has 
been life on this planet for about eight hundred million 
years already, and that the planet will continue to be 
habitable for at least as long again (unless Western man’s 
precocious technological ‘know-how’ cuts the story short) . 

If the claim that I am making for the historic importance 
of our subject seems a large one, let us recall how ex- 
traordinary an event this change in the map has been. It 
has, I suggest, two aspects, of which the second is the more 
sensational. In the first place, since about a.d. 1500 (to 
reckon in terms of our Western parochial era), mankind 
has been gathered into a single world-wide society. From 
the dawn of history to about that date, the earthly home 
of man had been divided into many isolated mansions; 



since about a.d. 1500, the human race has been brought 
under one roof. This has been accomplished, under God, 
by human action, and here we come to the really sensa- 
tional point. The agent of this revolutionary change in the 
affairs of men might have been any one of the divers 
parochial societies that were on the map when the revolu- 
tion was put in hand, but the particular parochial society 
that has actually done the deed is the one that, of all of 
them, was the most unlikely candidate. 

In an effon: to jump clear of my native Western stand- 
ing-ground and to look at this question from a less eccen- 
tric point of view, I have asked myself who was the most 
centrally placed and most intelligent observer that I could 
think of among notable non-Westemers who were alive 
at the moment when a few ships’ companies of Western 
mariners embarked on the enterprise of unifying the world, 
and I have found my man in the Emperor Babur. Babur 
was a descendant, in the fifth generation, of Tamerlane, 
the Transoxanian conqueror who made the last attempt to 
unify the world by land operations from a continental 
centre. Within Babur’s lifetime— a.d. 1483-1530— Colum- 
bus reached America by sea from Spain and da Gama 
India from Portugal. Babur started his career as prince of 
Farghana in the upper valley of the Jaxartes: a small coun- 
try which had been the centre of the otxmjpEVT} since the 
second century B.c. Babur invaded India overland twenty- 
one years after da Gama had arrived there by sea. Last 
but not least, Babur was a man-of-letters whose brilliant 
autobiography in his Turkish mother-tongue reveals a 
spirit of outstanding intelligence and perceptiveness. 

What was Babur’s horizon? To the east of Farghana it 
included both India and China, and to the west it extended 
to Babur’s own distant kinsmen, the Ottoman Turks. Babur 



took lessons from the ‘Osmanlis in military technique, 
and he admired them for their piety and prowess in ex- 
tending the bounds of Islam. He refers to them as ‘the 
Ghazis of Rum’: the happy warriors who had succeeded, 
where the primitive Muslim Arabs had signally failed, in 
conquering for Islam the homeland of Eastern Orthodox 
Christendom. I could not recollect any mention of Western 
Christendom in Babur’s memoirs, and I have found none 
in the exhaustive geographical index of Mrs. Beveridge’s 
magnificent English translation. Of course Babur was aware 
of the existence of the Franks, for he was a cultivated man 
and he knew his Islamic history. If he had had occasion to 
allude to them, he would probably have described them 
as ferocious but frustrated infidels living in a remote 
comer of the world at the extreme western tip of one of 
the many peninsulas of the Continent of Asia. About four 
hundred years before his time, he would have gone on to 
relate, these barbarians had made a demonic attempt to 
break out of their cramped and uninviting comer into the 
broader and richer domains of Rum and Dar-al-Islam. It 
had been a critical moment for the destinies of civilization, 
but the uncouth aggressors had been foiled by the genius 
of Saladin, and their military reverses had been capped 
by a crushing moral defeat when the Christians of Rum, 
faced with a choice between two alternative future masters, 
chose the side of the angels by opting for ‘the Prophet’s 
turban’ in preference to ‘the Pope’s tiara,’ and accepted 
the boon of an Ottoman Peace. 

The arrival of Frankish ships in India in a.d. 1498, 
twenty-one years before Babur’s own first descent upon 
India in a.d. 1519, seems to have escaped Babur’s attention 
—unless his silence is to be explained not by ignorance of 
the event, but by a feeling that the wanderings of these 

[ 66 ] 


water-gypsies Were unworthy of a historian’s notice. So 
this allegedly intelligent Transoxanian man-of-letters and 
man-of-action was blind to the portent of the Portuguese 
circumnavigation of Africa? He failed to perceive that 
these ocean-faring Franks had turned the flank of Islam 
and taken her in the rear? Yes, I believe Babur would 
have been utterly astonished if he had been told that the 
empire which he was founding in India was soon to pass 
from his descendants to Frankish successors. He had no 
inkling of the change that was to come over the face of 
the world between his generation and ours. But this, I sub- 
mit, is not a reflection on Babur’s intelligence; it is one 
more indication of the queemess of the major event in the 
history of the world in our time. 

Since a.d. 1500 the map of the obtoup&rn has indeed been 
transformed out of all recognition. Down to that date it 
was composed of a belt of civilizations girdling the Old 
World from the Japanese Isles on the north-east to the 
British Isles on the north-west: Japan, China, Indo-China, 
Indonesia, India, Dar-al-Islam, the Orthodox Christendom 
of Rum, and another Christendom in the West. Though 
this belt sagged down, in the middle, from the North 
Temperate Zone to the Equator and thus ran through a 
fairly wide range, of climates and physical environments, 
the social structure and cultural character of these societies 
was singularly uniform. Each of them consisted of a mass 
of peasants, living and working under much the same con- 
ditions as their forefathers on the morrow of the invention 
of agriculture some six to eight thousand years back, and 
a small minority of rulers enjoying a monopoly of power, 
surplus wealth, leisure, knowledge, and skill which in turn 
enhanced their power. There had been one or two e'arlier 
generations of civilizations of the same type in the Old 



World. In a.d. 1500 some of these were still remembered, 
while others (since brought to light by modern Western 
archaeologists) had been forgotten. There were two of the 
same type in existence at this date in the New World, un- 
known to those of the Old World and barely known even 
to each other. The living civilizations of the Old World 
were in touch with each other, though not so closely as to 
be, or feel themselves to be, members of a single society. 

Their contact, such as it was, down to a.d. 1500, had 
been established and maintained along two different lines of 
communication. There was a maritime line which will be 
familiar to latter-day Westerners as the Peninsular and 
Oriental Steamship Company’s route to Kobe from Til- 
bury. In a.d. 1500, and indeed as recently as the time of a 
great-uncle of mine (a vivid memory of my childhood) 
who commanded one of the Honourable East India Com- 
pany’s passenger sailing ships and retired from the sea 
before the cutting of the Suez Canal without ever having 
served on board a steamer, this waterway through a chain 
of inland seas was broken by a portage between the Medi- 
terranean and the Red Sea, with an alternative portage 
between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. In the 
Mediterranean and Japanese sections of this maritime route, 
traffic had frequently been lively, and, from about 120 b.c. 
onwards, an infectious wave of maritime enterprise, set 
in motion by Greek mariners from Alexandria who found 
their way to Ceylon, had travelled on eastwards through 
Indonesia till it had carried Polynesian canoes to Easter 
Island. Yet, adventurous and romantic as these pre- Western 
seafarers were, the water-route that they opened up never 
came to be of more than secondary importance as a line 
of communication between the civilizations. The main line 
was provided by the chain of steppes and deserts that cut 

[ 68 ] 


across the belt of civilizations from the Sahara to Mongolia. 

For human purposes, the Steppe was an inland sea which, 
in virtue of happening to be dry, was of higher conduc- 
tivity for human intercourse than the salt-water sea ever 
was before the close of the fifteenth century of the Chris- 
tian era. This waterless sea had its dry-shod ships and its 
quayless ports. The steppe-galleons were camels, the steppe- 
galleys horses, and the steppe-ports ‘caravan cities 1 — ports 
of call on oasis-islands and termini on the coasts where the 
sand-waves of ‘the Desert’ broke upon ‘the Sown’: Petra 
and Palmyra, Damascus and Ur, Tamerlane’s Samarkand 
and the Chinese emporia at the gates of the Great Wall. 
Steppe-traversing horses, not ocean-traversing sailing ships, 
were the sovereign means of locomotion by which the 
separate civilizations of the world as it was before a.d. i 500 
were linked together— to the slight extent to which they 
did maintain contact with each other. 

In that world, as you see, Babur’s Farghana was the cen- 
tral point, and the Turks were, in Babur’s day, the central 
family of nations. A Turco-centric history of the world 
has been published in our lifetime by the latest in the series 
of the great Ottoman Turkish Westemizers, President 
Mustafa Kemal Atatiirk. It was a brilliant device for re- 
storing the morale of his fellow-countrymen, but it was a 
still more brilliant feat of genuine historical intuition; for, 
from the fourth century of the Christian era, when they 
pushed the last of their Indo-European-speaking predeces- 
sors off the Steppe, down to the seventeenth century, 
which witnessed the collapse of the Ottoman, the Safawi, 
and the Timurid Turkish dynasties in their respective do- 
mains of Rum, Iran, and India, the Turkish-speaking peo- 
ples really were the keystone of the Asiatic arch from 
which the pre-da Gaman belt of civilizations hung sus- 



pended. During those twelve hundred years, the overland 
link between the separate civilizations was commanded by 
Turkish steppe-power, and, from their central position in 
this pre-da Gaman world, the Turks rode out, conquering 
and to conquer, east and west and south and north: to 
Manchuria and Algeria, to the Ukraine and the Deccan. 

But now we come to the great revolution: a techno- 
logical revolution by which the West made its fortune, 
got the better of all the other living civilizations, and 
forcibly united them into a single society of literally 
world-wide range. The revolutionary Western invention 
was the substitution of the Ocean for the Steppe as the 
principal medium of world-communication. This use of 
the Ocean, first by sailing ships and then by steamships, 
enabled the West to unify the whole inhabited and habit- 
able world, including the Americas. Babur’s Farghana had 
been the central point of a world united by horse-traffic 
over the Steppe; but in Babur’s lifetime the centre of the 
world made a sudden big jump. From the heart of the Con- 
tinent it jumped to its extreme western verge, and, after 
hovering round Seville and Lisbon, it settled for a time in 
Elizabeth’s England. In our own lifetime we have seen this 
volatile world-centre flit again from London to New York, 
but this shift to a still more eccentric position on the far 
side of the ‘herring pond’ is a local movement, not com- 
parable in magnitude to the jump, in Babur’s day, from the 
steppe-ports of Central Asia to the ocean-ports of the At- 
lantic. That huge jump was caused by a sudden revolution 
in the means of locomotion. The steppe-ports were put out 
of action when the ocean-going sailing-ship superseded the 
camel and the horse; and now that, under our eyes, the 
ocean-going steamship is being superseded by the aeroplane 
we may ask ourselves whether the centre of the world is 

[ 70 ] 


not likely to jump again— and this time as sensationally as 
in the sixteenth century— under the impetus of a technologi- 
cal revolution that is at least as radical as the sixteenth- 
century substitution of da Gama’s caravel for Babur’s 
tipuchaq. I will recur to this possibility before I conclude. 
Meanwhile, before we roll up Babur’s overland map of 
the world and unfurl the maritime map that has held the 
field from Babur’s day to ours, let us call the roll of the 
separate civilizations among which the human race was 
partitioned down to Babur’s day and interrogate them 
briefly about their historical outlook. 

The uniformity which these separate civilizations display 
in their cultural character and their social structure extends 
to their historical outlook as well. Every one of them was 
convinced that it was the only civilized society in the 
world, and that the rest of mankind were barbarians, un- 
touchables, or infidels. In holding this view, it is evident 
that at least five out of the six pre-da Gaman civilizations 
must have been in error, and the sequel has shown that 
actually not one of them was right. All variants of a fallacy 
are no doubt equally untrue, but they may not all be 
equally preposterous, and it is instructive to run through 
these half-dozen rival and mutually incompatible versions 
of a common ‘Chosen People’ myth in an ascending order 
of their defiance of common sense. 

For the Chinese, their compartment of the surface of 
the Earth was ‘All that is under Heaven,’ and the territory 
under the Imperial Government’s immediate rule was ‘the 
Middle Kingdom.’ This point of view is expressed with a 
serene assurance in the celebrated reply of the great Em- 
peror Ch’ien Lung ( imperabat a.d. 1735-95) to a letter 
from King George the Third of Great Britain proposing 

[ 7 1 1 


that the two potentates should enter into diplomatic and 
commercial relations with each other. 

As to your entreaty to send one of your nationals to 
be accredited to my Celestial Court and to be in control 
of your country’s trade with China, this request is con- 
trary to all usage of my dynasty and cannot possibly 
be entertained. . . Our ceremonies and code of laws 
differ so completely from your own that, even if your 
envoy were able to acquire the rudiments of our civiliza- 
tion, you could not possibly transplant our manners and 
customs to your alien soil. . . Swaying the wide world, 
I have but one aim in view, namely to maintain a per- 
fect governance and to fulfil the duties of the State. . . 
I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have 
no use for your country’s manufactures . 1 

If the barbarian envoy Lord Macartney had divulged the 
awkward fact that his royal master periodically went out 
of his mind, the Emperor would not have been surprised. 
No sane barbarian princeling would have had the audacity 
to address the Son of Heaven as though he were his equal; 
and the tone, taken in all innocence, by the draftsman of 
the British missive was indeed bound to appear outrageous 
in the light of history as known to Ch’ien Lung and his 

Ch’ien Lung himself had made history by subjugating 
the last wild nomads of the Eurasian Steppe and thereby 
bringing to an end a duel between ‘the Desert’ and ‘the 
Sown 1 that had been one of the main threads in the weft 
of human history for the past three thousand years. ‘The 
Son of Heaven’ had achieved this historic feat virtually 

1 For the full text see Whyte, Sir F.: China and Foreign Powers, 
Oxford University Press, London, 1927, Appendix. 





single-handed. The only other party that could claim any 
share in the honours was the Caesar at Moscow. ‘The South 
Sea Barbarians’ (as the Chinese called the Western water- 
gypsies who had been washed up against the south coast 
of China from that direction) had had no hand at all in 
this great victory for the cause of sedentary civilization. 
But the personal achievements of the statesman and warrior 
Ch’ien Lung could add little to the effulgence radiating 
from the Son of Heaven ex officio. The empire over which 
he ruled was the oldest, most successful, and most benefi- 
cent of all living political institutions. Its foundation in the 
! third century b.c. had given a civilized world a civilized 

government conducted by a competitively recruited and 
highly cultivated civil service, in place of an international 
anarchy in which a number of parochial states, dominated 
by a hereditary feudal nobility, had plagued mankind by 
i waging perpetual wars with one another. During the 

I twenty intervening centuries, this carefully ordered world 

peace had occasionally lapsed, but such lapses had always 
( been temporary, and, at the close of Ch’ien Lung’s reign, 

j the latest restoration of ‘the Middle Kingdom’ was in its 

j; heyday. This political casket had preserved an intellectual 

f| treasure: the findings of schools of philosophy which had 

! ! explored all the alternative answers to the fundamental 

s questions of metaphysics and ethics. And the children of 

jl ‘the Middle Kingdom’ had shown that their inborn intelli- 

» gence and statesmanship were matched by their broad- 

\ mindedness when they had adopted a great alien religion 

l —the Indian-born Mahayana— to meet any spiritual needs 

j that their secular civilization might not be able to meet 

j entirely out of its own resources. 

On the strength of this historical background, was Ch’ien 
Lung right in answering George III as he did? Doubtless 

[73 ] 


some of my Western readers smiled as they read his answer. 
They smiled, of course, because they knew the sequel; 
but what does the sequel prove? It proves, no doubt, that 
the Emperor Ch’ien Lung and his advisers were unaware 
of the overwhelming physical power which ‘the South 
Sea Barbarians’ had acquired from their practical applica- 
tions of new discoveries in physical science. At the date 
of Lord Macartney’s mission there were Chinese men-of- 
letters, already in the flower of their age and holding re- 
sponsible positions in the imperial service, who were to live 
to see Great Britain make war on China and dictate terms 
of peace to her at the cannon’s mouth. But does not this 
very sequel also prove that Ch’ien Lung was as wise in his 
policy of non-intercourse as he was out-of-date iii his 
information about ‘the South Sea Barbarians’ ’ military 
calibre? His intuition had warned him against traffick- 
ing in ‘strange or ingenious’ British wares, and one very 
strange ware that British merchants offered to the Imperial 
Government’s subjects was opium. When the imperial au- 
thorities banned the traffic, as a respectable government was 
bound to do, the barbarians took advantage of their unsus- 
pected military superiority to blast an entry by naval gun- 
fire for British trade in China on British terms. I know this 
is a simplification of the story of ‘the Opium War,’ but 
in essence it is the truth, and the best that can be said 
for the perpetrators of this international crime is that they 
have, ever after, been ashamed of it. I well remember this, 
I hope, redeeming sense of shame being communicated to 
me as a child by my mother when I asked her about ‘the 
Opium War’ and she told me the facts. 2 

The siren voice of History, which lured ‘the Son of 
Heaven’ at Peking into fancying himself to be the unique 

2 For a summary of the facts, see note at the end of this essay. 

t 74 ] 


representative of Civilization with a capital ‘C,’ was play- 
ing the same trick, in a.d. 1500, on his counterpart the 
Caesar at Moscow. He too was the ruler of the latest 
avatar of a world-empire that had occasionally lapsed but, 
so far, had never failed to recover itself. The universal 
peace radiated by Augustus from a First Rome on the 
banks of the Tiber had been re-established by Constantine 
round a Second Rome on the shores of the Bosphorus; 
and, when the Constantinopolitan Empire, after dying and 
rising again three times over— in the seventh, the eleventh, 
and the thirteenth centuries of the Christian era— had fallen 
to the infidel Turks in a.d. 1453, the sceptre had passed 
to a Third Rome at Moscow whose kingdom was to have 
no end (so all pious Muscovites must believe). The Mus- 
covite heir of Roman world power had inherited, by the 
same token, the cultural achievements of Rome’s Greek 
predecessors; and, as if that was not enough, he was also 
God’s chosen defender of the great alien religious faith— 
Christianity— which had been adopted by the pagan Graeco- 
Roman world to make good its own spiritual shortcom- 
ings. The heir of Greece, Rome, and Christ, and, through 
Christ, of God’s Chosen People Israel! The title of Mus- 
covy appeared, in Muscovite eyes, to be as conclusive as 
it was unique. 

If the Czar’s pretension had come to the Son of Heaven’s 
notice, he would perhaps have treated it with a certain 
leniency. When, fifteen hundred years or so before the 
da Gaman revolution in the map of the world, the first 
empire of Ts’in had made an adventurous voyage of ex- 
ploration into the waterless sea of the Steppe and had just 
brushed against the first Empire of Rome with the tips of 
its antennae, the Chinese desert-mariners had generously 

[ 75 ] 


labelled this surprising discovery ‘Ta Ts’in’: ‘the Great 
China’ in the Far West. But Ts’in and Ta Ts’in had aRvays 
been insulated from one another by intervening neighbours 
who challenged the claims of both. In Hindu eyes, for 
instance, the Buddhism that China had so reverently 
adopted from India was nothing better than a deplorable 
aberration (happily abandoned at home) from Hindu 
orthodoxy. It was the Brahmans who held a monopoly of 
right ritual, inspired scriptures, and correct theology. 
Much of the population even of India, and every man, 
woman, and child in the world beyond the bounds of 
the Aryan Holy Land, were untouchable outcasts. India’s 
Muslim conquerors might wield irresistible material power, 
but they could not cleanse themselves from their ritual 

The Muslims, for their part, were as hard on the Hindus 
and Christians as the Hindus were on the Muslims and 
Chinese. As the Muslims saw it, the Prophets of Israel 
were all right, and Jesus was God’s last and greatest prophet 
before His final messenger Muhammad. The Muslims’ quar- 
rel was not with the Prophet Jesus but with the Christian 
Church, which had captivated Rum by capitulating to 
pagan Greek polytheism and idolatry. From this shameful 
betrayal of the revelation of the One True God, Islam had 
retrieved the pure religion of Abraham. Between the Chris- 
tian polytheists on the one side and the Hindu polytheists 
on the other there again shone the light of monotheism; 
and in Islam’s survival lay the hope of the world. 

This traditional Islamic scale of values comes out sharply 
in the closing sentence of the great Egyptian historian Al- 
Gabarti’s narrative of the events of the year of the Hijrah 

[ 76 ] 


So this year reached its close. Among the unprece- 
dented events that occurred in it, the most portentous 
was the cessation of the Pilgrimage from Egypt [to the 
Holy Cities of the Hijaz] . They did not send the Holy 
Draperies ( Kiswah ) for the Ka‘bah and they did not 
send the Purse ( surrah ). The like of this had never 
happened in the present age, and never during the rule 
of the Banu ‘Osman. [Truly,] the ordering of events 
lies with God alone. 3 

Which was this exciting year? In our Western notation, 
the twelve months corresponding to a.h. 1213 run from 
June a.d. 1798 to June 1799. It was, you see, the year in 
which Napoleon descended upon Egypt, and the sentence 
that I have quoted is Al-Gabarti’s grand -finale to a most 
vivid and penetrating account of this supremely dramatic 
‘war of the worlds.’ Being a Martian myself, I was pulled 
up short, as I well remember, the first time I read those 
concluding words. Yet one cannot read Al-Gabarti without 
taking him seriously. He would undoubtedly figure on a 
list of candidates for the distinction of ranking as lead- 
ing historians of civilized society up to date. I shall revert to 
this passage and try to persuade my fellow-Westemers 
that our philistine inclination to laugh at it ought to move 
us to laugh, instead, at our own unconscionable parochial- 

For now we come to the two really laughably fantastic 
cases of a local civilization’s fancying itself to be the only 
civilization in the world. 

The Japanese actually believed that their country was 

8 Shaykh ‘Adb-ar-Rahman Al-Gabarti: Aja’ib-al-Athar fi't-Tarajmt 
iva’l-Ahbar (Cairo, a.h. 1311, 4 vols.), vol. ni, p. 63; French translation 
(Cairo, Imprimerie Nationale, and Paris, Leroux, a.d. 1888-96, 9 vols.), 
vol. w, p. 121. 


‘the Land of the Gods’ and in consequence inviolable to 
invaders (though the Japanese themselves had in recent 
times successfully invaded it to the cost of their unlucky 
Nordic predecessors ‘the Hairy Ainu’). Japan ‘the Middle 
Kingdom’! Why, Japan in a.d. i 500 was still a feudal so- 
ciety in the unedifying state of anarchy from which China 
had been salvaged by Ts’in She Hwangti in 22 1 B.c. What 
China, so long ago, had achieved for herself unaided, Japan 
had failed to accomplish after having enjoyed for nearly 
a thousand years the blessings of a borrowed Chinese 
secular civilization and an Indian higher religion passed 
on to her by Chinese good offices. Could folly fly farther? 
Why, yes, it would seem that it could, for the Western 
variant of the universal fallacy surely outfooled the Japa- 
nese. The Franks were solemnly asserting in a,d. 1500 that 
the true heir of Israel, Greece, and Rome was not the 
Orthodox Eastern Christendom but theirs, and that it was 
not the Western but the Orthodox Church that was schis- 
matic! To listen to the Frankish theologians you might 
have imagined that it was the four Eastern Patriarchates, 
and not the Patriarchate of Rome, that had doctored the 
Creed by slipping a filioqite into it. And, to listen to the 
‘Roman Emperors of the German Nation’ in their political 
controversies with the Greek and Russian successors of 
Augustus and Constantine, you might have imagined that 
it was the Greek and Oriental provinces and not the Latin 
provinces in which the Roman Imperial Government had 
perished, never to revive, in the fifth century after Christ. 
In a.d. 1500 the audacity of these Frankish pretensions to 
be ‘the Chosen People’ was enough to take away the breath 
of any rightly informed and properly impartial arbitrator. 
But a more astonishing fact remains to be recorded. Since 
then, four centuries and a half— and what centuries!— have 



rolled by and the Franks are still singing the same old 
song to-day: singing it solo now, too; for the other voices 
in the chorus of civilizations that were chanting a fallacious 
creed in unison in a.d. 1500 have, one by one, changed 
their tune between that year and this. 

The success of the non-Westem majority of mankind 
in re-educating themselves, while Western minds have been 
sticking in archaic mud, is not, of course, in itself a proof 
of innately superior acumen or virtue. The beginning of 
wisdom is a salutary shock, and the non-Western societies 
have had a tremendous shake-up administered to them by 
the Western civilization’s boisterous impact. The West 
alone has so far escaped this unceremonious treatment. Un- 
shattered, up till now, by an upheaval of its own making, 
our local civilization is still hugging the smug and slovenly 
illusion in which its ‘opposite numbers’ indulged till they 
took their educative toss from the levelled horns of an un- 
intentionally altruistic Western bull. Sooner or later, the 
repercussions of this collision will assuredly recoil upon 
the West herself; but for the present this Janus-like figure 
slumbers on— abroad a charging bull, at home a now soli- 
tary Sleeping Beauty. 

The shocks which the other civilizations have received 
have indeed been severe enough to wake even the Seven 
Sleepers of Ephesus. Imagine the psychological effect of 
the British diktat of a.d. 1842 on some Chinese scholar- 
statesman who was old enough to remember the Emperor 
Ch’ien Lung’s handling of Lord Macartney’s embassy 
forty-nine years earlier! Read Al-Gabarti! I have only 
space to quote his account of one incident that followed 
the sudden appearance, on Friday the 8th Muharram, a.h. 
1213, of twenty-five foreign ships off the Egyptian port 
of Alexandria. 

[ 79 ] 


The townspeople were wondering, what the foreign- 
ers could have come for, when a little boat stood in 
and landed ten persons. . . These foreigners said that 
they were Englishmen, and they added that they were 
on the look-out for some Frenchmen, who had started 
with a considerable fleet for an unknown destination. 
They were afraid, they said, of seeing these Frenchmen 
make a surprise attack on Egypt, because they knew 
that the people of Egypt would not be able to repel 
the invaders or to prevent them from landing. . . The 
foreigners went on to say: ‘We shall be content to 
keep the sea with our ships, in order to defend the city 
and patrol the coast; we shall ask you for nothing but 
water and provisions, and for these we will undertake 
to pay.’ The notables of the city refused, however . . . 
to enter into relations with the English, and said to them: 
‘This country belongs to the Sultan, and neither the 
French nor any other foreigners have any business here; 
so be good enough to leave us.’ At these words the Eng- 
lish messengers returned to their ships and went off to 
look for their provisions somewhere else instead of at 
Alexandria, ‘in order that God might accomplish the 
work that was preordained in His decree .’ 4 

When one reads on, one finds that these latter-day 
gesta Dei per Francos stimulated the receptive doctor of 
the University of Al-Azhar to begin his own personal re- 
education immediately. One of the first acts of the French 
after occupying Cairo was to stage there a scientific ex- 
hibition, with practical demonstrations, and our historian 
was among the visitors. After remarking that the French 
evidently mistook the Muslims for children who could be 
impressed by monkey-tricks, and that this was really rather 
childish of the French themselves, Al-Gabarti frankly re- 

4 French translation, vol. vt, ad init. 



cords his admiration for the demonstrated achievements of 
Frankish science . 6 He notices that, among the damage suf- 
fered by the French in a revolt which they had provoked 
by their high-handed behaviour at the outset, the loss which 
they appeared to mind the most was that of some scientific 
instruments that had been destroyed in the house of the 
savant Cafarelli . 0 But Al-Gabarti’s interest in French sci- 
ence is surpassed by his sensitiveness to French justice. 
French soldiers are convicted of house-breaking with 
violence, and, on Napoleon’s personal orders, they pay 
for their crime with their lives . 7 Napoleon’s successor in 
command of the French army of occupation, General 
Kleber, is assassinated by a Muslim fanatic, and the mur- 
derer is given a genuine fair trial. This trial wins Al- 
Gabarti’s enthusiastic admiration, and, frank as always, he 
records his opinion that the Muslims would not, in cor- 
responding circumstances, have risen to that moral level. 
He is so intensely interested in the proceedings and so 
eager to preserve a record of them, that he incorporates 
the dossier of the trial in his narrative, reproducing the 
documents verbatim in the French military chancery’s de- 
fective Arabic . 8 

When one observes how quickly and readily the Egyp- 
tian Muslim scholar Al-Gabarti learnt a French lesson 
that was very far from being ‘without tears,’ one’s mind 
turns to the series of great Ottoman Turkish westernizing 
statesmen: Mehmed ‘Ali of Kavalla, the Macedonian bat- 
talion-commander who came and saw what the French had 
been doing in Egypt and who carried on Napoleon’s revo- 

8 French translation, vol. vx, p. 75; cp. pp. 70-71. 


lutionary work there after Napoleon had come and gone ; 9 
Sultan Selim III, who lost his life at Constantinople, nine 
years before Napoleon’s disembarkation at Alexandria, in 
a pioneer attempt to westernize the Ottoman Army; Sultan 
Mahmud II, who succeeded, after half a lifetime of patient 
waiting, in executing his martyr-cousin’s political testa- 
ment; and, last but not least, President Mustafa Kemal 
Atatiirk, who completed, in our lifetime, the totalitarian 
revolution in Ottoman Turkish life that Sultan Selim had 
initiated some six generations earlier. These Ottoman names 
recall their counterparts elsewhere: the arch-westernizer 
Peter the Great and his Bolshevik executors; the shrewd 
architects of the Meiji ‘Restoration’ in Japan; the Bengali 
syncretist Ram Mohan Roy, who, by carrying the issue 
onto the terrain of religion, showed the characteristic 
Hindu feeling for the true relative values of matter and 
spirit— however indignantly the orthodox Hindu pandits 
of the day might shake the dust of this heresiarch’s de- 
filing threshold from off their own unprofitably unsullied 

At the inspiration or behest of these mighty ‘Herodians’ 
—and the driving force has usually been a cross between 
persuasion and compulsion— a younger generation of non- 
Westemers from all the once-separate societies which the 
West has now swept together in its world-enveloping net 
has literally been coming, to school in the West in our 

9 In proceeding with the .writing of his history of his own times, Al- 
Gabarti dealt as faithfully with Mehmed ‘Ali as with Napoleon or 
‘Abdallah Menou. In an evil hour for the historian, the dictator heard 
of his work and instituted inquiries into its contents, and, after that, 
Al-Gabarti’s record of Mehmed ‘Ali’s deeds was abruptly terminated. 
Riding home on his ass one dark night (to be exact, it was the night of 
the 27th Ramadan, a.h. 1237, alias 22nd June 1822), our too truthful in- 
formant ‘softly and silently vanished away.’ His adverse judgment on 
Islamic justice had been prophetic. 

[8 1] 


day. They are taking Western lessons at first-hand in the 
universities of Paris and Cambridge and Oxford; at Colum- 
bia and at Chicago; and, as I was scanning the faces of my 
audience in the Senate House of the University of London, 
I saw to my pleasure a contingent of their representatives 
there. An elite in all the non- Western societies has in fact 
by now successfully re-educated itself out of its traditional 
self-centred parochial point of view. Some of them, alas, 
have caught, instead, the Western ideological disease of 
Nationalism, but even Nationalism has, for non-Western- 
ers, at least the negative merit of being an exotic infirmity. 
It, too, draws them out of their ancestral shell. In short, by 
one road or another, the emotionally upsetting but intel- 
lectually stimulating experience of being taken by storm 
by the West has educated these non-Westem students of 
human affairs into realizing (and what an effort of imagina- 
tion this implies!) that the past history of the West is not 
just the West’s own parochial concern but is their past 
history too. It is theirs because the West— like those house- 
breaking French soldiers at Cairo whose execution by 
Napoleon Al-Gabarti records— has thrust its way into its 
defenceless neighbours’ lives; and these neighbours must 
therefore familiarize themselves with Western history if 
they are to learn how to take their bearings in a new world- 
wide society of which we Westerners have made them 
members by main force. 

The paradox of our generation is that all the world 
has now profited by an education which the West has 
provided, except (as we have observed already) the West 
herself. The West to-day is still looking at history from 
that old parochial self-centred standpoint which the other 
liv ing societies have by now been compelled to transcend. 
Yet, sooner or later, the West, in her turn, is bound to 

[ 83 ] 


receive the re-education which the other civilizations have 
obtained already from the unification of the world by 
Western action. 

What is the probable course of this coming Western 
mental and moral revolution? Wending our way, as we 
have to do, with our noses up against an iron curtain that 
debars us from foreseeing our own future, we may per- 
haps gain some illuminating side-lights from the histories of 
older contemporaries where we know the whole story be- 
cause the dramatis personae have already departed this life. 
What, for instance, was the sequel to the impact of the 
Graeco-Roman civilization on its neighbours? If we follow 
the thread through sixteen or seventeen centuries, from 
the catabasis of Xenophon’s ten thousand companions-in- 
arms to the latest achievements of Greek-inspired Muslim 
science and philosophy before the Mongol cataclysm, we 
shall see an apparently irresistible Greek offensive on the 
military, political, economic, intellectual, and artistic planes 
being progressively contained, halted, and thrown into 
reverse by the counter-measures of its non-Greek victims. 
On all the planes on which they had been attacked, the 
Orientals’ counter-offensive was successful on the whole, 
but it was chequered in its fortunes and sometimes ironical 
in its consequences. There is, however, one point— religion, 
the Greeks’ Achilles’ heel— at which the Oriental counter- 
stroke went home and made history. 

This fully told yet all but contemporary tale has an 
evident bearing on our own prospects; for a spiritual 
vacuum like the hollow place at the heart of that Hellenic 
culture which the Greeks temporarily imposed on the 
world has latterly made its appearance in the culture of 
our Western Christendom in the form in which this culture 
has been ‘processed’ for export. For some two hundred 



years, dating from the beginning of the da Gaman era, 
our world-storming Western forefathers made a valiant 
attempt to propagate abroad the whole of our Western 
cultural heritage, including its religious core as well as 
its technological rind; and in this they were surely well- 
inspired; for every culture is a ‘whole’ whose parts are 
subtly interdependent, and to export the husk without the 
grain may be as deadly as to radiate the satellite electrons 
of an atom without the nucleus. However, about the turn 
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of our Western 
Christian era, something happened which, 1 venture to 
prophesy, is going to loom out in retrospect as one of the 
epoch-making events of our modem Western history when 
this local history is seen in its true light as an incident in 
the general history of mankind. This portent was a double 
event, in which the Jesuits’ failure was accentuated by the 
Royal Society’s simultaneous success. The Jesuits failed 
to convert the Hindus and Chinese to the Roman Catholic 
form of Western Christianity. They failed, though they had 
discovered the psychological ‘know-how,’ because, when it 
came to the point, neither the Pope nor the Son of Heaven 
nor the Brahmans would have it. In the same genera- 
tion, these tragically frustrated Jesuit missionaries’ fellow- 
Western Catholics and Protestants at home came to the 
hazardous conclusion that a religion in whose now divided 
and contentious name they had been fighting an incon- 
clusive fratricidal hundred years’ war was an inopportune 
element in their cultural heritage. Why not tacitly agree 
to cut out the wars of religion by cutting out religion 
itself and concentrate on the application of physical science 
to practical affairs— a pursuit which aroused no controversy 
and which promised to be lucrative? This seventeenth- 
century turning in the road of Western progress was big 

[ 85 3 


with consequences; for the Western civilization that has 
since run like wildfire round the world has not been the 
whole of the seamless web; it has been a flare of cotton- 
waste: a technological selvage with the religious centre- 
piece torn out. This ‘utility’ pattern of Western civilization 
was, of course, comparatively easy to take; Peter the Great 
revealed his genius by instantly pouncing on it as soon 
as it was displayed in the West’s shop window. A hun- 
dred years later, the subtler and more spiritual Al-Gabarti 
showed a nicer discrimination. French technology hit him 
in the eye, but he persisted in waiting for a sign. For him, 
the touchstone of Western civilization, as of his own, was 
not technology but justice. This Cairene scholar had ap- 
prehended the heart of the matter, the issue which the 
West has still to fight out within itself. ‘And though I . . . 
understand all mysteries and all knowledge . . . and have 
not charity, I am nothing’ 10 — ‘Or what man is there of you 
whom, if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or, 
if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?’ 11 

This brings us' back to a question, raised by a sentence 
of Al-Gabarti’s, which is still awaiting our answer. Which 
really was the most important event of a.h. 1213? 
Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt or the intermission of the 
annual pilgrimage from Egypt to the Holy Cities in the 

The Islamic institution of the pilgrimage is of course, 
in itself, nothing more than an exacting external observance, 
but, as a symbol, it stands for the fraternal spirit that binds 
all Muslims together. Islam is therefore in danger when the 
pilgrimage falls off, as we have learnt by experience in our 
own lifetime; and Al-Gabarti was sensitive to this danger 

10 1 Cor. xiii. 2. 

11 Matt. vii. 9-10. 

[ 86 ] 


because he valued the spiritual treasure with which his 
ancestral religion was freighted. What value are we to 
place on Islam ourselves? In a chapter of world history in 
which the mastery of the world seems likely to lie in the 
hands of the conspicuously infra-pigmented and notori- 
ously race-conscious transmarine English-speaking peoples, 
can mankind afford to do without the social cement of 
Islamic fraternity? Yet this social service, valuable and 
noble though it be, is not the essence of Islam— as Al- 
Gabarti would have been quick to point out to us, though 
he happened, himself, to be a living embodiment of this 
particular virtue of his Faith. As his surname records, Al- 
Gabarti was hereditary master of one of those ‘nations’ 
that were the constituents of the University of Al-Azhar, 
as they were of its contemporary, the Sorbonne. And who 
were his nation of the Gabart? They were the Trans- 
Abyssinian Gallas and Somalis: true-believing ebony- 
coloured children of Ham. You will perceive that our 
hero’s surname and personal name were felicitously 
matched: surname Al-Gabarti ‘the Ethiop’; personal name 
‘Abd-ar-Rahman ‘the Servant of the God of Mercy.’ Yet 
this worshipper of a compassionate God would have testi- 
fied that, if the pilgrimage is merely the symbol of a fra- 
ternity transcending differences of colour and class, this 
unity between true believers is, in turn, merely a transla- 
tion into action here on Earth of their true belief in the 
unity of God. Islam’s creative gift to mankind is mono- 
theism, and we surely dare not throw this gift away. 

And what about the Battle of the Pyramids? Last year, 
when, for the second time in my life, I was attending a 
peace conference in Paris, I found myself, one Sunday 
morning, sitting on a temporary wooden stand and watch- 
ing the French ‘victory march’ defiling past me— spahis on 

[ 87 ] 


dancing white horses, and Tunisian light infantry led by 
a sedately drilled and smartly caparisoned sheep— with the 
Arc de Triomphe staring me in the face on the farther 
side of the procession’s route. Staring back at that imposing 
pile of masonry, my eye began to travel along the row of 
round shields below the cornice, each bearing the name 
of one of Napoleon’s victories. ‘It is perhaps a good thing,’ 
I caught myself thinking, as my eye reached the corner, 
‘that this monument is only four-square and not octagonal, 
for, if they had had more room, they would have had to 
come, in the end, to Sedan and the Battle of France.’ And 
then my mind flitted to the equally ironical ends of other 
chains of national glories: a German chain in which the 
Battle of France had been followed within four years by 
the Battle of Germany, and a British chain of victories in 
India beginning with Plassey and Assaye and running 
through the sonorous Panjabi names of stricken fields in 
the Anglo-Sikh Wars. What, in the final account, did these 
Western national victories amount to? To the same zero 
figure as the national victories— not less famous in their day 
—of those Chinese ‘contending states’ which Ts’in She 
Hwangti swept off the map in the third century b.c. 
Vanity of vanities! But Islam remains, with a mighty 
spiritual mission still to carry out. 

So who has the last laugh in this controversy over 
Al-Gabarti’s sense of proportion? Al-Gabarti’s Western 
readers or AI-Gabarti himself? 

Now what must we Westerners do if we aspire, like 
Cleanthes, to follow the beck of Zeus and Fate by using 
our intelligence and exercising our free will, instead of 
constraining those dread deities to bring us into line by 
the humiliating method of compulsion? 

First, I would suggest, we must readjust our own his- 

[ 88 ] 


torical outlook on the lines on which, the educated repre- 
sentatives of our sister-societies have been readjusting theirs 
during these last few generations. Our non-Westem con- 
temporaries have grasped the fact that, in consequence of 
the recent unification of the world, our past history has be- 
come a vital part of theirs. Reciprocally, we mentally still- 
slumbering Westerners have now to realize, on our part, 
that, in virtue of the same revolution— a revolution, after all, 
that has been brought about by ourselves— our neighbours’ 
past is going to become a vital part of our own Western 

In rousing ourselves to make this effort of imagination 
we do not have to start quite from the beginning. We have 
always realized and acknowledged our debt to Israel, 
Greece, and Rome. But these, of course, are extinct civiliza- 
tions, and we have managed to pay our homage to them 
without budging from our traditional self-centred stand- 
point because we have taken it for granted— in the blind- 
ness of our egotism— that our noble selves are those ‘dead’ 
civilizations’ raison d’etre. We imagined them living and 
dying for the sake of preparing the way for us-playing 
John the Baptist to our own role as the Christ (I apologize 
for the blasphemy of this comparison, but it does bring 
out sharply how outrageously distorted our outlook has 

We have latterly also realized the importance, as con- 
tributors to our own past, of certain other civilizations 
which were not only extinct but which had lain buried 
in oblivion before we disinterred their debris. It is easy 
for us to be generous in our acknowledgements to Minoans, 
Hittites, and Sumerians, for their rediscovery has been a 
feather in our Western scholar’s cap, and they have made 

[ 89 ] 


their reappearance on the stage of history under our patron- 

It will be harder for us to accept the not less plain fact 
that the past histories of our vociferous, and sometimes 
vituperative, living contemporaries— the Chinese and the 
Japanese, the Hindus and the Muslims, and our elder 
brothers the Orthodox Christians— are going to become a 
part of our Western past history in a future world which 
will be neither Western nor non-Western but will inherit 
all the cultures which we Westerners have now brewed 
together in a single crucible. Yet this is the manifest truth, 
when we face it. Our own descendants are not going to be 
just Western, like ourselves. They are going to be heirs 
of Confucius and Lao-Tse as well as Socrates,' Plato, and 
Plotinus; heirs of Gautama Buddha as well as Deutero- 
Isaiah and Jesus Christ; heirs of Zarathustra and Muhammad 
as well as Elijah and Elisha and Peter and Paul; heirs of 
Shankara and Ramanuja as well as Clement and Origen; 
heirs of the Cappadocian Fathers of the Orthodox Church 
as well as our African Augustine and our Umbrian Bene- 
dict; heirs of Ibn Khaldun as well as Bossuet; and heirs 
(if still wallowing in the Serbonian Bog of politics) of 
Lenin and Gandhi and Sun Yat-sen as well as Cromwell 
and George Washington and Mazzini. 

A readjustment of historical outlook demands a cor- 
responding revision of methods of historical study. Recap- 
turing, if we can, an old-fashioned mode of thought and 
feeling, let us confess, with great humility, that, through 
the providence of God, the historic achievement of West- 
ern man has been to do something not simply for himself 
but for mankind as a whole— something so big that our 
own parochial history is going to be swallowed up by the 
results of it. By making history we have transcended our 

[ 9 ° 1 


own history. Without knowing what we have been doing 
we have taken the opportunity offered to us. To be allowed 
to fulfil oneself by surpassing oneself is a glorious privilege 
for any of God’s creatures. 

On this view then— a humble view and yet a proud 
view too— the main strand of our modern Western history 
is not the parish-pump politics of our Western society 
as inscribed on triumphal arches in a half-dozen parochial 
capitals or recorded in the national and municipal archives 
of ephemeral ‘Great Powers.’ The main strand is not even 
the expansion of the West over the world— so long as we 
persist in thinking of that expansion as a private enterprise 
of the Western society’s own. The main strand is the 
progressive erection, by Western hands, of a scaffolding 
within which all the once separate societies have built 
themselves into one. From the beginning, mankind has 
been partitioned; in our day we have at last become united. 
The Western handiwork that has made this union possible 
has not been carried out with open eyes, like David’s un- 
selfish labours for the benefit of Solomon; it has been per- 
formed in heedless ignorance of its purpose, like the labours 
of the animalculae that build a coral reef up from the 
bottom of the sea till at length an atoll rises above the 
waves. But our Western-built scaffolding is made of less 
durable materials than that. The most obvious ingredient 
in it is technology, and man cannot live by technology 
alone. In the fullness of time, when the oecumenical house 
of many mansions stands firmly on its own foundations 
and the temporary Western technological scaffolding falls 
aW ay— as I have no doubt that it will— I believe it will be- 
come manifest that the foundations are firm at last because 
they have been carried down to the bedrock of .religion. 

We have reached the Pillars of Hercules and it is time 

[ 9*1 


to draw in sail, for we cannot see clearly very much 
farther ahead. In the chapter of history on which we are 
now entering, the seat of material power is moving at 
this moment still farther away from its pre-da Gaman 
locus. From the small island of Britain, lying a stone’s 
•"throw from the Atlantic coast of the continent of Asia, 
it is moving to the larger island of North America, a bow- 
shot farther distant. But this transfer of Poseidon’s trident 
from London to New York may prove to have marked 
the culmination of the dislocating effects of our current 
Oceanic age of intercommunication; for we are now 
passing into a new age in which the material medium of 
human intercourse is going to be neither the Steppe nor 
the Ocean, but the Air, and in an air age mankind may 
succeed in shaking its wings free from their fledgeling 
bondage to the freakish configuration of the surface— solid 
or liquid— of the globe. 

In an air age the locus of the centre of gravity of human 
affairs may be determined not by physical but by human 
geography: not by the lay-out of oceans and seas, steppes 
and deserts, rivers and mountain-ranges, passes and straits, 
but by the distribution of human numbers, energy, ability, 
skill, and character. And, among these human factors, the 
weight of numbers may eventually come to count for more 
than its influence in the past. The separate civilizations of 
the pre da-Gaman age were created and enjoyed, as we 
have observed, by a tiny sophisticated ruling minority 
perched on the back of a neolithic peasantry, as Sinbad 
the Sailor was ridden by the Old Man of the Sea. This 
neolithic peasantry is the last and mightiest sleeper, before 
herself, whom the West has waked. 

The rousing of this passively industrious mass of hu- 
manity has been a slow business. Athens and Florence each 

[ 9 2 ] 


flashed her brief candle in the sleeper’s drowsy eyes, but each 
time he just turned onto his side and sank to sleep again. 
It was left for modern England to urbanize the peasantry 
with sufficient energy on a large enough scale to set the 
movement travelling round the circumference of the Earth. 
The peasant has not taken this awakening kindly. Even 
in the Americas he has contrived to remain much as he 
was in Mexico and the Andean Republics, and he has struck 
new roots on virgin soil in the Province of Quebec. Yet 
the process of his awakening has been gathering mo- 
mentum; the Erench Revolution carried it on to the Con- 
tinent; the Russian Revolution has propagated it from coast 
to coast; and, though to-day there are still some fifteen 
hundred million not yet awakened peasants— about three- 
quarters of the living generation of mankind— in India, 
China, Indo-China, Indonesia, Dar-al-Islam, and Eastern 
Europe, their awakening is now only a matter of time, and, 
when it has been accomplished, numbers will begin to tell. 

Their gravitational pull may then draw the centre-point 
of human affairs away from an Ultima Thule among the 
Isles of the Sea to some locus approximately equidistant 
from the western pole of the world’s population in Europe 
and North America and its eastern pole in China and India, 
and this would indicate a site in the neighbourhood of 
Babylon, on the ancient portage across the isthmus between 
the Continent and its peninsulas of Arabia and Africa. The 
centre might even travel farther into the interior of the 
Continent to some locus between China and Russia (the 
two historic tamers of the Eurasian Nomads), and that 
would indicate a site in the neighbourhood of Babur’s 
Farghana, in the familiar Transoxanian meeting-place and 
debating ground of the religions and philosophies of India, 
China, Iran, Syria, and Greece. 



Of one thing we can be fairly confident: religion is 
likely to be the plane on which this coming centripetal 
counter-movement will first declare itself; and this proba- 
bility offers us a further hint for the revision of our tradi- 
tional Western methods of studying history. If our first 
precept should be to study our own history, not on its 
own account but for the part which the West has played 
in the unification of mankind, our second precept, in study- 
ing History as a whole, should be to relegate economic and 
political history to a subordinate place and give religious 
history the primacy. For religion, after all, is the serious 
business of the human race. 



The terms in which this subject has been referred to in the foregoing 
essay may be supported by the following summary of the facts, which 
is based on (i) Williamson, J. A., and other members of the Historical 
Association: Common Errors in History (London, 1945, King and 
Staples); (ii) Pratt, Sir J.: War and Politics in China (London, 1943, 
Cape); (iii) Costin, W. C.: Great Britain and China, 1833-1860 (Oxford, 
1937, Clarendon Press); (iv) Morse, H. B.: The International Relations 
of the Chinese Empire: The Period of Conflict , 1834-1860 (London, 1910, 
Longmans, Green). None of the authors of these works are Chinese; all 
are Westerners; all but one are British subjects; the author of (iv) is a 
citizen of the United States. 

1. The smoking of opium, which is the most noxious way of taking 
the drug, was first introduced into China by the Dutch (from Java). 

2. Addiction to opium-smoking came to be far more widespread in 
China than elsewhere (for example, than in British India, which came to 
be the chief, though never sole, source of opium production in the world 
and of opium importation into China). 

3. The British Government in India assumed a monopoly of the sale 
of opium in their dominions in a.d. 1773, and of the manufacture of it in 
aj>. 1797. 

4. In a.d. 1800 the Chinese Government forbade both the cultivation 
of the opium poppy in China and its importation from abroad (opium 
smoking had long since been a penal offence in China) . 

5. Before a.d, 1830, the policy of the British Indian Government was to 
restrict the consumption of opium, at home and abroad, by charging a 
high price; from An. 1830 onwards they followed the opposite policy of 





winning the maximum revenue from opium by stimulating consumption 
through lowering the price. This had the double effect of greatly in- 
creasing the amount of opium smuggled into China and of increasing the 
amount of revenue accruing to the Indian Government’ (Pratt, op. cit. } 
p. 44). 

6 . The British Government in India were unwilling, until a.d. 1907, to 
make the sacrifice of revenue that would be entailed in putting an em- 
bargo on the export of opium from India to China (The British Indian 
Government’s opium revenue rose from about £ 1 ,000,000 per annum in 
the years 1820-43 to over £7,000,000 in 1910-n). 

7. In the period A.t>. 1800-1858, during which the importation of opium 
into China was illegal, the lion’s share of the smuggling trade was done 
by British ships. 

8. The British Government in the United Kingdom never made this 
smuggling trade illegal for British subjects, and they discountenanced 
compliance with the Chinese Government’s demand that foreign mer- 
chants should sign bonds undertaking not to smuggle opium into China 
and accepting a liability to suffer capital punishment for this offence at 
the hands of the Chinese authorities if the offenders were caught and 

9. The smuggling trade would not have been (a) lucrative, if there had 
not been a keen demand for opium among the Chinese public, or (b) 
feasible, if the British and other foreign smugglers had not had energetic 
Chinese confederates. 

10. Most Chinese officials were unwise and incompetent, and some of 
them corrupt, in their handling of the particular problem of opium- 
smuggling and the general problem of doing business with Western 
traders and with the representatives of Western governments:— 

(a) They treated representatives of Western governments as if they 
were the agents of client princes and Western traders as though they 
were barbarians; 

(b) They failed to put down the smuggling of opium into China; 

(c) Some of them connived at the smuggling and participated in its 

11. The British Government in the United Kingdom were prevented, 
by the influence of the China Trade in Parliament, from giving their 
Superintendents of Trade in China adequate authority over British sub- 
jects there during the critical years a.d. 1834-9. 

12. The Westerners justly complained that their legitimate trade was 
vexatiously restricted and that they were subjected to wanton personal 

13. The Chinese justly complained (a) that the advent of Western 
traders had brought on China the curse of opium-smuggling on a large 
scale (in a.d. 1836 the value of the opium smuggled into China was 
greater than the combined value of the tea and silk legitimately ex- 
ported) ; (b) that British and other Western sailors in the port of Canton 
were drunken, riotous, and homicidal. 



14. In 1839, a Chinese Imperial Commissioner, Lin Tse-sii, succeeded, 
by a bloodless boycott and blockade of the Western merchants at Can- 
ton, in compelling the British Chief Superintendent of the trade of 
British subjects in China, Captain Charles Elliot, to co-operate with him 
in enforcing the surrender, by Western merchants, of 20,283 chests of 
opium, valued at over ^11,000,000, at that time held by them on Chinese 
soil or in Chinese territorial waters. Commissioner Lin duly destroyed 
the confiscated opium, but he failed to put an end to opium-smuggling. 

15. Thereafter, hostilities were started by the British, first on 4 Septem- 
ber 1839, at Kowloon in retaliation for a refusal of permission to pur- 
chase food supplies, and then on 3 November 1839, at Chuen-pi, in retort 
to a Chinese demand for the surrender of the murderer of a Chinese 
subject, Lin Wei-hi, who had been fatally injured on 7 July, at Kowloon, 
in an indiscriminate assault on the Chinese civilian population by British 
(and perhaps also American) sailors who were trying to lay hands on 
intoxicating liquor. 

N.Z?. Captain Elliot had held a judicial inquiry into this incident on 
10 July and had tried, but failed, to identify the murderer. 

16. The British Government in the United Kingdom had already taken 
steps to despatch a naval and military expeditionary force to China after 
being informed of the action taken by Commissioner Lin, but before 
receiving the news of the outbreak of hostilities. 

17. The British Government met with some opposition and censure, 
from a minority in Parliament and among the public, for making war on 
China in a.d. 1839-42. 

18. In the peace treaty signed at Nanking on 29 August 1842, the British 
compelled the Chinese to open treaty ports and to cede territory, but 
not to legalize the opium traffic. 

19. At the instance of the British Government, the Chinese Govern- 
ment agreed, on 13 October 1858, to legalize the importation of opium 
into China after defeat in a second Sino-British war and fifty-eight years’ 
experience of failure to prevent the smuggling traffic. 

20. As between the Chinese and the British, the issue over opium was 
eventually closed (a) by the progressive reduction, pari passu , during 
the years 1907- 19 19, of opium cultivation in China and the importation 
of opium into China from India, by agreement between the Chmese and 
British Indian Governments; (b) by the total prohibition of exports of 
opium from British India in An. 1926. 

NJ 3 . As a result of political anarchy in China, followed by Japanese 
invasion and occupation, the cultivation of the opium poppy in China 
afterwards became rife again. 



Before the War of 1914-18, Europe enjoyed an undis- 
puted ascendency in the world, and the special form of 
civilization which had been developing in Western Europe 
during the past twelve hundred years seemed likely to 
prevail everywhere. 

The ascendency of Europe was marked by the fact that 
five out of the eight great powers then existing— that is to 
say, the British Empire, France, Germany, Austria-Hun- 
gary, and Italy— had their roots in European soil. A sixth, 
the Russian Empire, lay in the immediate continental 
hinterland of the European peninsula, and during the last 
two and a half centuries it had become welded onto 
Europe— partly by the growth of a great trade between 
. agrarian Russia and industrial Europe (a trade which had 
developed pari passu with the industrialization of Western- 
and-Central European countries); partly by the political 
incorporation in Russia of a fringe of countries with a 

1 This paper is based on a lecture delivered in London on the 26th 
October, 1926, with Dr. Hugh Dalton in the Chair, in a series, organized 
by the Fabian Society, under the general title of ‘The Shrinking World; 
Dangers and Possibilities.’ In the course of the intervening twenty years, 
many of these possibilities have become accomplished facts. 



Western tradition of European civilization, such as Poland, 
Finland, and the Baltic Provinces; and partly by the adop- 
tion of Western technique, institutions, and ideas on the 
part of the Russians themselves. The two remaining great 
powers— Japan and the United States— were geographically 
non-European, and for that very reason they took little 
part, before the First World War, in the play of interna- 
tional politics— a play which was performed at that time on 
a European stage. It may be pointed out, however, that 
Japan, like Russia, had only risen to the rank of a great 
power through a partial adoption of that Western civiliza- 
tion of which Western Europe was the home. As for the 
United States, she was the child of Western Europe and, 
down to 1914, she was still drawing heavily upon European 
capital— human capital in the form of immigrants and ma- 
terial capital in the form of goods and services financed 
by European loans— in order to develop her latent natural 

This ascendency of Europe in the world Went hand in 
hand with the spread of Western civilization. The two 
movements were complementary, and it would be impos- 
sible to say that either was the cause or the effect of the 
other. Naturally, the spread of Western civilization was 
facilitated by the ascendency of Europe, because the strong 
and efficient are always imitated by the weak and ineffi- 
cient— partly out of necessity and partly from admiration 
(whether this admiration is avowed or not). On the other 
hand, the spread of Western civilization gave those peoples 
among whom it was indigenous an inestimable advantage 
in competition with those among whom it was exotic. 
During the century ending in 1914, the world was con- 
quered economically not only by the new Western indus- 



trial system but by the Western nations among whom 
that system had been invented; and the advantage possessed 
by an inventor in a battle fought with his own weapons 
was illustrated strikingly in the First World War itself. 
The fact that the War of 1914-18 was fought on the lines 
of Western military technique— which was of course an 
application of Western industrial technique-gave Ger- 
many an 'absolute military superiority over Russia, though 
German man-power was only half as great as Russian at 
the time. Had the Central-Asian, and not the Western, 
technique of warfare been predominant in the world during 
the years 1914-18, as it had been during the Middle 
Ages, the Russian Cossacks might have overwhelmed the 
Prussian Uhlans. (Both these types of cavalry had a Cen- 
tral-Asian origin which is betrayed by their Turkish names 
— ‘Oghlan’ being the Turkish for ‘boy,’ and ‘Qazaq’ for 

The predominance of the Western civilization through- 
out the world, on the eve of the fateful year 1914, was, 
indeed, both recent and unprecedented. It was unprece- 
dented in this sense-that, though many civilizations before 
that of Europe had radiated their influence far beyond their 
original home-lands, none had previously cast its net right 
round the globe. 

The civilization of Eastern Orthodox Christendom, 
which grew up in mediaeval Byzantium, had been carried 
by the Russians to the Pacific; but, so far from spreading 
westwards, it had itself succumbed to Western influence 
since the close of the seventeenth century. The civilization 
of Islam had expanded from the Middle East to Central 
Asia and Central Africa, to the Atlantic coast of Morocco 
and the Pacific coasts of the East Indies, but it had obtained 
no permanent foothold in Europe and had never crossed 

[ 99 ] 


the Atlantic into the New World. The civilization of an- 
cient Greece and Rome had extended its political dominion 
into North-Western Europe under the Roman Empire and 
its artistic inspiration into India and the Far East, where 
Graeco-Roman models had stimulated the development of 
Buddhist art. Yet the Roman Empire and the Chinese 
Empire had co-existed on the face of the same planet for 
two centuries with scarcely any direct intercourse, either 
political or economic. Indeed, so slight was the contact 
that each of these two societies saw the other, through a 
glass darkly, as a half-mythical fairyland. In other words, 
the Graeco-Roman civilization and the contemporary Far 
Eastern civilization each expanded to their full capacity, in 
the same age, without coming into collision. It was the 
same with the other ancient civilizations. Ancient India 
radiated her religion, her art, her commerce and her colo- 
nists into the Far East and the East Indies, but never pene- 
trated the West. The civilization of the Sumerians in. the 
Land of Shinar exerted an influence as far afield as the 
Indus Valley and Transcaspia and South-Eastern Europe; 
but attempts to prove that it was the parent of the early 
Chinese civilization on the one side, or of the Egyptian on 
the other, have miscarried. There is a brilliant and rather 
militant school of English anthropologists who maintain 
that all known civilizations— including those of Central 
America and Peru— can be traced back to an Egyptian 
origin. And these anthropologists point to the present 
world-wide extension of our Western civilization as an 
analogy in support of their thesis. If our own civilization 
has become world-wide in our own time, they argue, why 
should not the Egyptian civilization have achieved an equal 
extension a few thousand years earlier? This thesis is inter- 
esting, but it is the subject of acute controversy and must 

[ 100] 


be regarded as non-proven. As far as we know for certain, 
the only civilization that has ever yet become world-wide 
is ours. 

Moreover, this is a very recent event. Nowadays we 
are apt to forget that Western Europe made two unsuccess- 
ful attempts to expand before she eventually succeeded. 

The first of these attempts was the mediaeval movement 
in the Mediterranean for which the most convenient gen- 
eral name is the Crusades. In the Crusades, the attempt to 
impose the political and economic dominion of West Euro- 
peans upon other peoples ended in a complete failure, 
while, in the interchange of culture, the West Europeans 
received a greater impress from the Muslims and Byzan- 
tines than they imparted to them. The second attempt 
was that of the Spaniards and Portuguese in the sixteenth 
century of our era. This was more or less successful in the 
New World— the modern Latin American communities owe 
their existence to it— but, elsewhere, Western civilization, 
as propagated by the Spaniards and Portuguese, was re- 
jected after about a century’s trial. The expulsion of the 
Spaniards and Portuguese from Japan, and of the Portu- 
guese from Abyssinia, in the second quarter of the seven- 
teenth century, marked the failure of this second attempt. 

The third attempt was begun in the seventeenth century 
by the Dutch, French, and English, and these three West 
European nations were the principal authors of the world- 
wide ascendency that our Western civilization was enjoy- 
ing in 1914. The English, French, and Dutch peopled 
North America, South Africa, and Australasia with new 
nations of European stock which started life with the 
Western social heritage, and they brought the rest of the 
world within the European orbit. By 1914, the network 
of European trade and European means of communication 

[ 101 ] 


had become world-wide. Almost the whole world had en- 
tered the Postal Union and the Telegraphic Union, and 
European devices for mechanical locomotion— the steam- 
ship, the railway, the motor-car— were rapidly penetrating 
everywhere. On the plane of politics, the European nations 
had not only colonized the New World but had conquered 
India and tropical Africa. 

The political ascendency of Europe, however, though 
outwardly even more imposing than her economic ascend- 
ency, was really more precarious. The daughter-nations 
overseas had already set their feet firmly on the road 
towards independent nationhood. The United States and 
the Latin American Republics had long since established 
their independence by revolutionary wars; and the self- 
governing British Dominions were in process of establish- 
ing theirs by peaceful evolution. In India and tropical 
Africa, European domination was being maintained by a 
handful of Europeans who lived there as pilgrims and so- 
journers. They had not found it possible to acclimatize 
themselves sufficiently to bring up their children in the 
tropics; and this meant that the hold of Europeans upon the 
tropics had not been made independent of a European 
base of operations. Finally, the cultural influence of the 
West European civilization upon Russians, Muslims, Hin- 
dus, Chinese, Japanese, and tropical-Africans was so recent 
a ferment that it was not yet possible to predict whether 
it would evaporate without permanent effect, or whether 
it would turn the dough sour, or whether it would suc- 
cessfully leaven the lump. 

This then, in very rough outline, was the position of 
Europe in the world on the eve of the War of 1914-18. 
She was in the enjoyment of an undisputed ascendency, 
and the peculiar civilization which she had built up for her- 

[ 102 ] 


self was in process of becoming world-wide. Yet this posi- 
tion, brilliant though it was, was not merely unprecedented 
and recent; it was also insecure. It was insecure chiefly 
because, at the very time when European expansion was 
approaching its climax, the foundations of West European 
civilization had been broken up and the great deeps loosed 
by the release and emergence of two elemental forces in 
European social life— the forces of industrialism and democ- 
racy, which were brought into a merely temporary and 
unstable equilibrium by the formula of nationalism. It is 
evident that a Europe which was undergoing the terrific 
double strain of this inward transformation and outward 
expansion— both on the heroic scale— could not with im- 
punity squander lifer resources, spend her material wealth 
and man-power unproductively, or exhaust her muscular 
and nervous energy. If her total command of resources 
was considerably greater than that which any other civili- 
zation had ever enjoyed, these resources were relative to 
the calls upon them; and the liabilities of Europe on the 
eve of 1914, as well as her assets, were of an unprecedented 
magnitude. Europe could not afford to wage even one 
World War; and when we take stock of her position in the 
world after a Second World War and compare it with her 
position before 1914, we are confronted with a contrast 
that is staggering to the imagination. 

In a certain sense, Europe still remains the centre of 
the world; and in a certain sense, again, the world is still 
being leavened by that Western civilization of which 
Western Europe is the original home; but the sense in 
which these two statements are still true has changed so 
greatly that the bare statements are misleading without a 
commentary. Instead of being a centre from which energy 
and initiative radiate outwards, Europe has become a centre 

[ I0 3 ] 


upon which non-European energy and initiative converge. 
Instead of the world being a theatre for the play of Euro- 
pean activities and rivalries, Europe herself— after having 
been the cockpit in two world wars in which the world 
did its fighting on European soil— is now in danger of be- 
coming for a third time an arena for conflicts between 
non-European forces. An arena still may be defined as 
a central, public place, but it is hardly a place of honour 
or security. 

It is true, again, that the influence of our Western 
civilization upon the rest of the world is still at work. 
Indeed, its action has become intensified, if we measure 
it in purely quantitative terms. For example, before the 
two wars, the new facilities for travel were only available 
for a wealthy minority of Europeans and Americans. 
During the wars, these facilities were turned to account 
to transport not only Europeans and Americans but Asiatics 
and Africans, en masse , to fight, or to labour behind the 
front, in war-zones all over the world. During the last 
twenty or thirty years, additional means of mechanical 
communication have been made available, not merely for 
a minority but for large sections of society. The motor- 
car has learnt to conquer the desert; the aeroplane has out- 
sped the motor-car; and the radio has reinforced the tele- 
phone and telegraph as a means of instantaneous long dis- 
tance intercourse. Unlike the railway and the telegraph, 
the motor-car and the radio-set can be owned and em- 
ployed by private individuals— a feature which greatly 
enhances their efficacy as media of communication. With 
the wholesale intermingling of peoples during the two 
wars, and with these new mechanical aids to communica- 
tion after them, it is not surprising to find that the leaven 

[ 104] 


of Western civilization is penetrating the world more 
widely, deeply, and rapidly now than before. 

At this moment, we see peoples like the Chinese and 
the Turks, who within living memory seemed bound hand 
and foot by the Confucian and the Islamic social heritage, 
adopting not merely the material technique of the West 
(the industrial system and all its works) and not merely 
the externals of our culture (trifles like felt hats and 
cinemas) but our social and political institutions: the 
Western status of women, the Western method of educa- 
tion, the Western machinery of parliamentary representa- 
tive government. In this, the Turks and Chinese are only 
conspicuous participants in a movement which is spreading 
over the whole of the Islamic world, the whole of the 
Hindu world, the whole of the Far East, the whole of 
tropical Africa; and it looks almost as though a radical 
Westernization of the entire world were now inevitable. 
Insensibly, our attitude towards this extraordinary pro- 
cess has changed. Formerly, it caught our attention in the 
two apparently isolated cases of Japan and Russia, and we 
thought of these two cases as ‘sports’— due, perhaps, to some 
exceptional quality in the social heritage of these two 
countries which made- their peoples specially susceptible 
to Westernization; or due, perhaps, alternatively, to the 
personal genius and forcefulness of individual statesmen 
like Peter the Great and Catherine and Alexander the 
Liberator and that group of Japanese elder statesmen 
who deliberately imposed the adoption of Western ways 
upon the mass of their fellow-countrymen from the 
eighteen-sixties onwards. Now we see that Japan and 
Russia were simply forerunners of a movement which was 
to become universal. As Europeans observe this process of 
the Westernization of the world and watch it gathering 

[ i°j ] 


momentum under their eyes, they may be inclined to ex- 
claim almost in a spirit of exaltation: ‘What does it matter 
if Europe really has lost her ascendency in the world, if 
the whole world is becoming European? Europae si monu- 
mentwn requiris, circwnspiceP 

That mood of exaltation, however, if it did for a moment 
capture European minds, would rapidly be dispelled by 
doubts. The propagation of Western culture from Europe 
over the world may be a great thing quantitatively, but 
what about quality? If at this instant Europe were to be 
blotted out of the book of life, would the Western civili- 
zation be able to maintain its European standard in the 
foreign environments to which it has been transplanted? 
If Europe were blotted out altogether, could the Western 
civilization even survive? And with Europe still alive, 
but deposed from her former position of supremacy— which 
is manifestly the fate that has overtaken her— will the 
Western civilization, though saved from extinction, escape 

Still more alarming doubts suggest themselves when we 
contemplate the modern history of Russia— and Russia is 
the most instructive case to consider, because in Russia 
the process of Westernization has had longer than else- 
where to work itself out. In Russia, the leaven of Western 
Europe has been at work for two centuries longer than in 
Japan or China, and for a century longer than among the 
Muslims and the Hindus. Thus, the point to which the 
current of Westernization has carried Russia by now 
enables us to' foresee, by analogy, at any rate one of the 
possibilities that lie before the Far East, Islam, India, and 
Africa in the course of the next few generations. This 
possibility which is revealed by the case of Russia— and 
of course it is no more than one possibility among a num- 

[ 106 ] 


ber of alternatives— is a disconcerting one for Western 
minds to contemplate. 

The Europeans have regarded themselves as the Chosen 
People— they need feel no shame in admitting that; every 
past civilization has taken this view of itself and its own 
heritage— and, as they have watched the Gentiles, one after 
another, casting aside their own heritage in order to take 
up Europe’s instead, they have unhesitatingly congratulated 
both themselves and their cultural converts. ‘One more 
sinner,’ Europeans have repeated to themselves devoutly, 
‘has repented of the filthy devices of the heathen and be- 
come initiated into the True Faith.’ 

Now the first effects of the conversion— at any rate 
among the peoples converted to Western civilization be- 
fore the wars— appeared to bear out this pious and optimis- 
tic view. For half a century after the Revolution of 1868, 
Japan seemed to have come unscathed through the tre- 
mendous transformation to which she had committed her- 
self; and Russia would have been pronounced by a detached 
observer who took stock of her in 1815, or even as lately 
as 1914, to have been set by Peter the Great upon the 
road of progress— though in her case the road might have 
appeared to be longer, steeper, and more toilsome than in 
the case of Japan. A fair-minded observer of Russia, at 
either of those dates, would have admitted that the stand- 
ard of Western civilization in a recently Westernized Rus- 
sia was far lower than in a Europe where that civilization 
was at home; but he would have pleaded that, in spite of 
this backwardness, and in spite of disappointingly frequent 
set-backs, Russia was rapidly catching up the European 
vanguard in the march of Western civilization. ‘Remem- 
ber,’ he would have said, ‘that, in this forward march, 
f Europe had ten centuries’ start, and you will admit that 

[ 107 1 


the pace at which Russia is catching up to Europe is very- 

But what would the same fair-minded observer say about 
Russia to-day? I do not propose to speculate on the moral 
judgment that he would pass— that is irrelevant to my sub- 
ject— but, whatever his judgments of value might be, I think 
he could hardly avoid making the two following judg- 
ments of fact: first, that the Gospel according to Lenin 
and Stalin draws its inspiration from the West every bit 
as much as the Gospel according to Peter and Alexander; 
and, second, that the effect of the West upon Russia has 
changed over from positive to negative. The Russian 
prophets of the first dispensation were inspired by a set 
of Western ideas which attracted them towards the social 
heritage of our Western civilization; the Russian prophets 
of the second dispensation have been attracted by another 
set of ideas which are also of Western origin, but which 
lead them to regard the West as a kind of apocalyptic 
Babylon. We cannot comprehend the total effect of West- 
ernization upon Russia up to date unless we see this Bol- 
shevik reaction of the twentieth century and the Petrine 
reaction of the seventeenth century in perspective— as suc- 
cessive, and perhaps inseparable, phases in a single process 
which the encounter between two different civilizations 
has set up. In this perspective we shall come to regard the 
process of Westernization with less complacency, and shall 
find ourselves reciting the parable: 

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he 
walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and, finding 
none, he saith: ‘I will return unto my house whence I 
came out.’ And when he cometh he findeth it swept and 
garnished. Then goeth he and taketh to him seven other 


spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and 
dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than 
the first. 

From a Western standpoint, ‘the unclean spirit’ which 
originally possessed Russia was her Byzantine social heri- 
tage. When Peter the Great went on his pilgrimage to 
Europe and beheld Solomon in all his glory, there was 
no more spirit left in him. Byzantinism did not, indeed, go 
out of Russia, but it did go underground, and for ten 
generations the Russian people walked through dry places, 
seeking rest and finding none. Unable to endure existence 
in a swept and garnished house, they flung their doors 
wide open and summoned all the spirits of the West to 
enter in and dwell there; and in crossing the threshold 
these spirits have turned into seven devils. 

The moral seems to be that a social heritage will not 
readily bear transplantation. Culture spirits which are the 
tutelary geniuses, the Lares and Penates, of the house where 
they are at home and where there is a pre-established har- 
mony between them and the human inhabitants, become 
demons of malevolence and destruction when they enter 
into a house inhabited by strangers; for these strangers 
are naturally ignorant of the subtle rites in which their 
new gods’ souls delight. As long as the Ark of Jehovah 
remained in Israel among Jehovah’s Chosen People, it 
served them as their talisman, but, when the Ark was cap- 
tured by the Philistines, the hand of the Lord was heavy 
upon every city in which it rested, and the Chosen People 
themselves were infected with the plague by which the 
Gentiles were requited for their sacrilege. 

If this analysis is right, Europeans cannot take much 
comfort for the dethronement of Europe in the prospect 

[ I0 9 ] 


that the influence of European civilization may yet be- 
come the dominant force in the world. They will be less 
impressed by the fact that this mighty force has been 
generated in Europe than by the equally evident fact that, 
at a certain stage in its operation, it is apt to take a violently 
destructive turn. Indeed, this destructive recoil of European 
influence abroad upon Europe herself seems to be one of 
the signal dangers to which Europe is exposed in the new 
position in which she finds herself since the wars. In order 
to estimate the other principal danger to which Europe is 
now exposed, we must turn our attention from the relations 
between Europe and Russia to the relations between 
Europe and the United States. 

The reversal in the relations between Europe and the 
United States since 1914 gives th£*tfieasure in which the 
world-movement centring in Europe has become centri- 
petal instead of centrifugal. The United States, as she was 
in 1914, was a monument of the outward radiation of 
European energies during the previous three centuries. 
Her population of over one hundred millions had been 
created by the man-power of Europe, and the volume of 
migration across the Atlantic was expanding, on a steeply 
ascending curve, down to the very year in which the 
First World War broke out. Again, the development of the 
material resources of the vast territory of the United States 
—a territory comparable in area to the whole of Europe, 
excluding Russia— was dependent not merely upon the 
influx of European man-power but upon the importation 
of European goods and the application of European ser- 
vices. The positive current of economic circulation, in 
the form of emigrants and goods and services, was flowing 
before 1914 from Europe into the United States; the nega- 
tive current, in the form of remittances and payments of 



interest for goods and services supplied on credit, was 
flowing from the United States to Europe. As a result of 
the two wars, the direction of the current has been dra- 
matically reversed. 

The facts are so notorious, they are so constantly and 
so deeply impressed upon our consciousness, that I almost 
feel that I ought to apologize to my readers for recalling 
them. From the moment when the First World War broke 
out, the stream of European emigrants to America ceased 
to flow; and, by the time the first War was over, the 
United States— who had previously not only welcomed 
European immigrants but whose employers of labour had 
sought them in the highways and hedges of Europe and 
compelled them to come in— had learnt to feel that Euro- 
pean immigration was not a national asset but a national 
danger: that it was a transaction in which the balance of 
advantage was with the immigrant and not with the coun- 
try which received him. This momentous change of atti- 
tude in the United States towards European immigration 
was promptly given practical expression in the two restric- 
tion acts of 1921 and 1924. The effect upon the economic 
life of Europe— or, more accurately, of those European 
countries from which the largest contingents of emigrants 
to the United States had latterly been drawn— was very 

Take the classic case of Italy. In 1914 the number of 
Italian immigrants into the United States was 283,738; 
by contrast, the Italian annual quota proclaimed by Presi- 
dent Coolidge on the 30th June, 1924, in pursuance of the 
Act of that year, was 3,845. In consequence, the stream 
of Italian emigrants was partly dammed up and partly , di- 
verted from the vacuum in the United States— a vacuum 
which had existed because America was a new world 



in process of development— to the vacuum in France— a 
vacuum which had been created because Europe was an 
old world devastated by having been made into the battle- 
field of an oecumenical war. In the eighteenth century, 
French and English armies crossed the Atlantic in order 
to fight on the banks of the Ohio and the St. Lawrence 
for the possession of the North American continent. In 
the twentieth century, American armies have crossed the 
Atlantic in order to decide the destinies of the world on 
European battle-fronts. Till 1914, the fertilizing stream of 
European emigration to America was still increasing in 
volume. From 1921 onwards, this stream was being de- 
liberately checked, and during the inter-war years it was 
replaced by an uneconomic trickle of American tourists 
to Europe. 

Of course, this inter-war trickle of American tourists 
to Europe, though small and unproductive compared to the 
mighty river of emigrants which had formerly flowed 
from Europe to America, was very large compared to any 
other movement of travel for uneconomic purposes that 
there had ever been; and the fact that this tourist traffic 
could be financed brings me to the second point in which 
the relations between Europe and the United States have 
been reversed— a point which is so obvious that I shall 
simply state it without dwelling on it. The United States 
had changed, almost in the twinkling of an eye, from 
being the greatest debtor country in the world to being the 
greatest creditor country; and, in spite of their traditional 
aversion to European entanglements, Americans were 
driven, by the necessities of the new economic situation, 
to seek markets on credit, in Europe, for American goods 
and services. But there was an unfortunate difference in 
kind between pre-war European investment in the United 

[ ”2 ] 


States and the inter-war American investment in Europe. 
Before 1914, Europe provided the United States with 
credits for productive outlay. During the two wars, Europe 
borrowed from America the means of working her own 
destruction; and to-day she is borrowing desperately from 
America again, not in order to develop new European 
resources, but merely to repair some part of the ravages 
which two world wars have inflicted on her. 

Confronted with this painful reversal in their relations 
with the United States, Europeans naturally ask them- 
selves: ‘Is this an accidental, and therefore retrievable and 
merely temporary, misfortune— an incidental consequence 
of exceptional catastrophes? Or has it older and deeper 
causes, the effect of which it will be less easy to counter- 
act?’ I venture to suggest that this second possibility ap- 
pears to be the more probable of the two— that, although 
the two wars have precipitated this reversal of relations and 
have given it a revolutionary and dramatic outward form, 
some such reversal was nevertheless inherent in the previous 
situation, and would have taken place— though no doubt 
more gently and gradually— even if these wars had never 
been fought. 

In support of this view, I shall put forward two points 
for consideration: first, the nature of the industrial system 
which Europe invented a century and a half ago and 
which has now spread all over the world; and, second, 
the fate of certain earlier centres of civilization— for ex- 
ample, mediaeval Italy or ancient Greece-which antici- 
pated ‘modern Europe in propagating their own civiliza- 
tion beyond their borders, though never quite so far and 
wide as modem Europe has propagated hers. 

First, let us consider the industrial system. It was in- 
vented in Great Britain at a time when parliamentary rep- 

[” 3 ] 


resentative government within the framework of a na- 
tional state had become the settled basis of English life. 
It immediately became apparent that a community built 
on the geographical scale of Great Britain, and possessing 
that cohesion and solidarity which the political institutions 
of representative government on the national scale had 
already given to Great Britain before the close of the 
eighteenth century, was the minimum unit of territory 
and population in which the industrial system could be 
operated with profit. The spread of industrialism from 
Great Britain across the European continent was, I should 
say, one of the main factors that produced the national 
unifications of Germany and Italy— two notable political 
consolidations of territory and population in Europe which 
were completed within a century of the Industrial Revo- 
lution in England. About the year 1875, it looked as 
though Europe would find equilibrium through being 
organized into a number of industrialized democratic na- 
tional states— units of the calibre of Great Britain, France, 
Germany, and Italy, as they existed from 1871 to 1914. 
We can now see that this expectation of equilibrium, on 
the basis of the national unit, was illusory. Industrialism 
and democracy are elemental forces. In the eighteen-seven- 
ties they were still in their infancy, and we cannot yet 
- foresee the ultimate dimensions to which they may grow 
or forecast the protean shapes which they may assume. 
What we can now pronounce with certainty is that the 
European national state— of the dimensions attained jby 
France and Great Britain in the eighteenth century and 
by Germany and Italy in the nineteenth— is far too small 
and frail a vessel to contain these forces. The new wines 
of industrialism and democracy have been poured into old 
bottles and they have burst the old bottles beyond repair. 

[ 1 Hi 


It is now hardly conceivable that the ultimate minimum 
effective unit of the industrial system can be anything less 
than the entire utilizable surface of the planet and the 
whole of mankind. And, on the political plane, likewise, 
the minimum unit is showing a tendency to increase in 
scale, in sympathy with the extension, to a world-wide 
range, of the operations of industry. That tendency in 
the economic field has been fully matched in the political 
field by the emergence of world-wide political organiza- 
tions: the United Nations and its precursor the League of 
Nations (and in this connexion I would suggest that the 
economic and technical activities of the United Nations, 
though the least conspicuous, are not the least important). 
But, short of the world-wide United Nations organiza- 
tion, we see on the present political map certain elastic 
associations of self-governing nations like the British Com- 
monwealth or the Pan American Union, in each of which 
a considerable number of national states are grouped to- 
gether. And within these two groups we can discern a 
number of political entities which are smaller and more 
closely knit than either of the associations to which they 
belong, yet at the same time are not nearly so small as 
typical European national states like France or Italy. 

These non-European polities of a supra-national calibre 
have discovered a new political form adapted to their scale: 
they have abandoned the unitary centralized organization 
of the French type in favour of a federalism which com- 
bines the advantages of variety and devolution with those 
of uniform united action for purposes common to the 
whole union. Up to the present moment, the United States 
is the only country of this new type and calibre which has 
come of age, and she has already given astonishing evidence 
of the economic power and energy which this new species 

[ 1 I S ] 


of political organization is able to generate and release. 
We can perceive, however, that the United States is simply 
the first to reach maturity among a number of adolescent 
states which have organized themselves or are organizing 
themselves on a similar federal basis and on a comparable 
geographical scale. Apart from the United States, most of 
the new non-European states of this type still lack some 
element essential to the full exercise of their latent strength. 
The Commonwealth of Australia and the Argentine Fed- 
eral Republic lack population; the Union of South Africa 
lacks population and is also confronted with the colour 
problem far more formidably than the United States. The 
rest lack either population, or education, or political ex- 
perience and stability, or several of these requisites to- 
gether; and some of them are doubtless so heavily handi- 
capped that they will fail to achieve their potentialities. It 
is not yet possible to forecast the future of the United 
States of Brazil, the Republic of Mexico, the Chinese Repub- 
lic, the nascent polities of India and Pakistan; and the des- 
tiny of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is inscruta- 
ble. Yet, even though some of these still adolescent federal 
states of the overseas type and calibre may fall by the 
wayside, it is extremely probable that, within the next 
generation, there will have grown to maturity, outside 
Europe, at least as many federal states of the type and 
calibre of the United States as there are national states in 
Europe of the type and calibre of Great Britain, France, 
and Italy. More than one of these non-European states 
will be comparable in order of magnitude to the whole of 
Europe put together. 

Thus Europe as a whole is in process of being dwarfed 
by the overseas world which she herself has called into 
existence, while the national states of Europe, singly, are 

[ ” 6 ] 


being dwarfed by the federal states of this new world 
overseas. Faced with this situation, what future has Europe 
to expect? 

Some light on her future may be afforded by analogies 
from the past. After all, what Europe has achieved in the 
world, though possibly unprecedented in scale, is not un- 
precedented in character. Ancient Greece and mediaeval 
Italy both anticipated her. Each of these earlier societies 
was divided into a number of city-states, which were no 
more diminutive, in proportion to their respective worlds, 
than is a European national state in proportion to the 
world of to-day. Each of these societies created such a 
noble civilization and put forth such an intense and effec- 
tively directed energy that in spite of its internal disunion 
—in spite of the passionate particularism of its city-states 
and their constant fratricidal struggles— ancient Greece 
and mediaeval Italy each, in its day, succeeded in estab- 
lishing its political, economic, and cultural ascendency far 
and wide over the surrounding Gentiles. Each of them, in 
its great age, set at defiance the dictum that a house divided 
against itself cannot stand. Yet their latter end was a tragic 
proof that the text is true. 

In either case, the Chosen People taught the Gentiles to 
follow their way of life, and in either case the Gentiles 
learnt to follow it, but on a far larger material scale. The 
city-states of Greece found themselves dwarfed by the 
greater powers— the Macedonian, Syrian and Egyptian 
monarchies, the Carthaginian Empire, and the Roman Con- 
federation— which arose round the Mediterranean after the 
expansion of the Greek civilization in the age of Alexander; 
and Greece then became at once the pilgrimage resort, the 
university, and the battlefield of these new Hellenized 
powers. It was the same with mediaeval Italy— and in her 

C 117 3 


case the story has a special appositeness; for the new powers 
which were called into existence by the spread of the 
Italian Renaissance beyond the Alps, and which dwarfed 
and dominated the city-states of Milan and Florence and 
Venice from the end of the fifteenth century onwards, 
were those European national states— such states as Spain 
and France— which are now being dwarfed under our eyes 
by the United States of America. 

As we reflect on these precedents, two questions nat- 
urally suggest themselves: first, how was it that the con- 
verted Gentiles, who in all else were the passive pupils 
and clumsy imitators of their Greek and Italian masters, 
were able to solve that one vital problem of political con- 
struction on a greater scale which their masters had re- 
peatedly attempted to solve without ever succeeding? Sec- 
ondly, how was it that the Greeks and Italians went on 
failing to solve their problem of political consolidation 
after it had become fully apparent to them that the penalty 
of continued failure would be political and economic 
downfall? In the Greece of the fourth, third, and second 
centuries b.c., in the Italy of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and 
seventeenth centuries of the Christian era, everybody de- 
plored the continuance of the old particularism, everybody 
tried to overcome it, and every attempt to transcend it 
failed until the Greeks and the Italians resigned themselves 
in despair to a doom which had come to seem inevitable. 
Why should peoples who were still resourceful and creative 
in other fields have remained ineffective in this one field, 
even under the supreme incentive of self-preservation? 

The first question is comparatively easy to answer. The 
Gentiles in the outer court of the Temple succeeded in 
building up political organizations of a larger calibre than 
the Greek and Italian city-states, not because they had 



greater political ability or political experience than the 
Greeks and Italians— on the contrary, they had much less 
—but because political construction is much easier in a 
new. country on the fringes of a civilization than in an 
old country at its centre. It is easier because there is less 
pressure, more available space, and no old buildings stand- 
ing on the site to which an architect has to adjust his new 
designs. In the new country on the edge of the world, the 
political architect has a free field and no commitments. 
Even if he is a dull fellow, it is not difficult for him to 
build something more spacious and convenient than can 
be attempted by his highly trained and talented colleague 
who has to work on a cramped site in the congested heart 
of an ancient city, overshadowed by the monuments of 
the past. It is the mere advantage of the geographical situa- 
tion, not the merit of the local architect, which brings 
it about that the new big-scale architecture is invented on 
the outskirts and not in the centre; but, though this is not 
the fault of the gifted inhabitants of the centre, the conse- 
quences which it brings upon them are not on that account 
the less serious. 

In this attempt to answer my first question, I think I have 
already indicated the answer to the second— to the ques- 
tion, that is, why the Greeks and Italians, when their city- 
states were dwarfed and their independence was threatened 
by the construction of larger-scale states around them, 
still failed to throw their city-states together and consoli- 
date them into a single political structure of the new order 
of magnitude. The answer seems to be that they could 
not escape from the toils of their own great traditions. In 
the great age of ancient Greece— the age in which she 
had created the Greek civilization which subsequently 
conquered the world— an independent Athens, an inde- 

[ ” 9 ] 


pendent Corinth, an independent Sparta had been the out- 
standing features in the political landscape. Think away 
the independence of those great city-states in the great 
age, and all that was greatest in that age, and permanently 
great in that civilization, would threaten to fade out of the 
picture. The independence of the city-states had the same 
roots as the civilization itself— and this is another way of 
saying that it was ineradicable so long as that civilization 
lasted. Without an independent Athens and an independent 
Sparta there could not be a Greek world. On the other 
hand, the new Greek city-states founded on Asiatic soil 
by Alexander and his successors had no cherished tradition 
of independence which inhibited them from allowing them- 
selves to be banded together, with other city-states of their 
kind, to form a federal organization on a larger scale. In 
times when salvation depends on innovation, the parvenu 
finds salvation more easily than the aristocrat. 

I will conclude by attempting to examine how these 
precedents bear upon the prospects of Europe in the new 
age following the two world wars— an age in which the 
dwarfing of Europe is one of the most striking new fea- 
tures. The Europeans of to-day, like the Italians of the 
sixteenth century of. our era and like the Greeks of the 
third century b.c., are well aware of their peril. They fully 
realize how serious it is; and they understand— at least, in a 
general way— what it is that they have to accomplish in 
order to ward this danger off. Ever since 1914, Europeans 
have given much thought to the problem of European 
union; and, though the publicists may have led the way, 
the men of action— in industry, in finance, and even in 
diplomacy— have also been at work on the problem. 

As the point of departure, we may take Dr. Friedrich 
Naumann’s brilliant book Mitteleuropa, published in 1915. 

[ 120] 


It was natural that the vision of a European political unit 
on a larger scale than the national state should have pre- 
sented itself first in the centre of Europe, where the pres- 
sure was greatest, and in time of war, when the normal 
pressure of existence was so sharply intensified for the cen- 
tral powers by a military struggle on two fronts and a naval 
blockade. It was also natural that a German writer, with 
the history of the German Zollverein in his mind, should 
start from the idea of a supra-national customs-union and 
proceed from this starting point to schemes for co-opera- 
tion in other- departments of public life. Between the two 
wars, Naumann’s conception of ‘Central Europe’ was ex- 
panded by other continental publicists into that of ‘Pan- 
Europa’— a general European union which, like Naumann’s 
‘Central Europe,’ was to be based upon a Zollverein. This 
project of ‘Pan-Europa’ seems first to have been ventilated 
in inter-war Austria— a country for whom the subdivision 
of Europe into a number of independent fragments, iso- 
lated from one another economically as well as politically, 
was hardly tolerable within the frontiers which had been 
assigned to Austria in the peace-settlement of 1919-20. 
After the Second World War, this movement for the unifi- 
cation of Europe has re-emerged, and it has now received 
powerful encouragement from America in the terms of the 
Marshall Plan. 

The eagerness and earnestness of the response which the 
Marshall Plan has evoked on the European side are indi- 
cations that Europe does realize her danger, does know 
what are the proper measures of defence, and does desire 
to take these measures. But the crucial question is this: 
Is Europe’s desire to retain, or retrieve, some vestige of 
her former position in the world a force that is strong 
enough to overcome the obstacles in the path? 



The most conspicuous obstacles are perhaps the follow- 
ing three: first, the special problems presented by the British 
Commonwealth and the Soviet Union— polities on the 
supra-national scale which, hitherto, have been half inside 
Europe and half outside; second, the continuing tendency 
of the industrial system to enlarge the scale of its opera- 
tions— a tendency which has already burst the bounds of 
the national state, and may very well burst the bounds of 
even the largest regional units, in its march towards woi id- 
unity; third, the dead-weight of European tradition, which 
makes a Europe without a sovereign independent Great 
Britain or a sovereign independent France as difficult for 
Englishmen and Frenchmen to love and cherish, or indeed 
even to imagine, as a Hellas without an independent Athens 
and Sparta would have been difficult to imagine for an 
Athenian and a Spartan of the third or second century 
b.c. Are any or all of these obstacles likely to be overcome? 

The obstacle presented by the Soviet Union looks, it 
must frankly be confessed, much more difficult after the 
Second World War than before it. Within its inter-war 
frontiers, the Soviet Union, unlike the previous Russian 
Empire, lay virtually outside Europe, for at that stage it 
did not include that fringe of countries with a Western 
tradition of culture whose inclusion had brought the former 
Russian Empire into the fellowship of European states. 
As a result of the War of 1914-18, the successful invasion 
of the Russian Empire by the Germans, and the two suc- 
cessive Russian revolutions of 1917, these Western border- 
lands parted company with Russia and entered the Euro- 
pean fellowship on their own account as the independent 
national states of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and 
Poland. As a result of the War of 1939-45, however, there 
has been a reversion here to something much more like the 



pre-1914 situation. The three Baltic States have been re- 
annexed to Russia as constituent republics of the Soviet 
Union, and not only Finland and the whole of Poland 
(including the former Prussian and Austrian portions), 
but Roumania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia as 
well, have been brought within the Soviet sphere of in- 
fluence, de 'facto though not de jure, as satellite states. In- 
cluding the German territories, east of the Northern Neisse 
and the Oder, which have been assigned to Poland by the 
Soviet Union in compensation for the Ukrainian and White 
Russian provinces of inter-war Poland which the Soviet 
Union has now taken back, and adding to all this the 
Soviet zones of occupation in Germany and Austria, we 
find the western boundary of the Soviet world now run- 
ning down the middle of Europe, north and south, from 
the Baltic to the Adriatic. 

Would the Soviet Government ever allow the Soviet 
half of post-war Europe to combine with the other half in 
anything like a Pan-European association? We may guess 
that Moscow would allow this only on one condition, and 
that is that Europe should form her union round a Russian 
nucleus and under Russian hegemony. This is a condition 
which the West European countries would be altogether 
unwilling to accept, and that means that, if the Marshall 
Plan does lead to union in Europe, the union is likely to 
be limited to countries lying west of the western boundary 
of the Soviet sphere. 

If, however, the Russian obstacle to European union has 
grown more formidable, the British obstacle has probably 
become easier to surmount. Any project for European 
uni on threatens to put Great Britain in a dilemma. If a 
Pan-European union, or even a narrower West European 
union, were successfully established by her continental 

[ I2 3 1 


European neighbours, Great Britain could hardly afford 
to stand outside it. Yet she could equally ill afford to enter 
a European union at the cost of breaking her links with 
the overseas English-speaking countries: the United States 
and the overseas members of the Commonwealth. This 
dilemma does not arise, however, when the European union 
which Great Britain is asked to join is sponsored by the 
United States and is designed as a basis for closer relations 
between a united Europe and America. In fact, Great 
Britain is relieved of embarrassment by just those inten- 
tions and assumptions of the Marshall Plan that are un- 
palatable to the Soviet Union. The terms of the Marshall 
Plan allow Great Britain to have the best of both worlds; 
she can enter into association with her neighbours on the 
European Continent without endangering her relations 
with her existing associates overseas; and a European union 
on these terms can be sure of receiving Great Britain’s 
whole-hearted support. 

But is ‘union’ the right name for the constellation of 
forces that we are forecasting? Would not ‘partition’ be a 
more accurate word? For if Eastern Europe is to be asso- 
ciated with the Soviet Union under Soviet hegemony and 
Western Europe with the United States under American 
leadership, the division of Europe between these two titanic 
non-European powers is the most significant feature of the 
new map to a European eye. Are we not really arriving at 
the conclusion that it is already beyond Europe’s power 
to retrieve her position in the world by overcoming the 
disunity that has always been her bane? The dead-weight 
of European tradition now weighs lighter than a feather in 
the scales, for Europe’s will no longer decides Europe’s 
destiny. Her future lies on the knees of the giants who now 
overshadow her. 

[ I2 4 ] 


The Marshall Plan also throws into relief another of 
those obstacles to the union of Europe that we have men- 
tioned. The tendency of the industrial system to go on 
extending the scale of its operations till this scale becomes 
world-wide tells heavily against the prospects of a mere 
regional European grouping. If the Marshall Plan bears 
fruit, the result will be to salvage the countries of Western 
Europe by building them into an economic system, centring 
round the United States, that will embrace the whole world 
except for the Soviet sphere; for the West European coun- 
tries will bring with them their African and Asiatic posses- 
sions and dependencies, while the United States will bring 
with her the Latin American countries and China, and the 
overseas members of the British Commonwealth may be 
counted on, in the circumstances, to join in. In terms of 
this scale of economic operations, a European union, even 
if it embraced the whole of Europe, would be almost as 
inadequate an economic unit as a national state on the scale 
of France or a city-state on the scale of mediaeval V enice. 
On the economic plane of vision it looks as though ‘Pan- 
Europa’ had already become an anachronism without our 
ever having had an opportunity of creating her; and West 
Europeans need not regret that ‘Pan-Europa’ has been 
still-born if they are offered the alternative of entering 
into an all but world-wide association. If Europe’s once 
unquestioned ascendency in the world proves to be a pass- 
ing curiosity of history that is doomed to die, the Marshall 
Plan gives Western Europe at least the solace of seeing 
her dead supremacy given Christian burial. Euthanasia, 
however, is neither recovery nor resurrection. On the 
morrow of the Second World War, the dwarfing of 
Europe is an unmistakably accomplished fact. 





When I compare the aftermaths of the two wars, I see 
a number of obvious resemblances, but one outstanding 
difference. Last time, we believed that the War of 1914-18 
had been a terrible but nevertheless non-significant in- 
terruption in the course of reasonable civilized historical 
progress. We thought of it as an accident like a railway 
collision or an earthquake; and we imagined that, as soon 
as we had buried the dead and cleared up the wreck- 
age, we could go back to living the comfortable uneventful 
life which, at that time, had come to be taken for granted, 
as though it were the birthright of man, by that small and 
exceptionally privileged fraction of the living generation 
of mankind that was represented by people of the middle 
class in the democratic industrial Western countries. This 
time, by contrast, we are well aware that the end of hostili- 
ties is not the end of the story. 

What is the issue that is arousing this anxiety to-day all 
over the world: among the Americans, the Canadians, our- 

1 This paper is based on a lecture delivered on 22 May 1947, in 
London at Chatham House, on return from a visit to the United States 
and Canada between 8 February and 26 April 1947. 



selves, our European neighbours, and the Russians (for, 
from the glimpse of the Russians that I had at Paris this 
last summer, I should say that we can gauge the Russians’ 
feelings pretty accurately by analogy with our own) ? 

I shall give you my own personal view, which is, as you 
will see, a controversial one. My personal belief is that this 
formidable issue is a political issue, not an economic one, 
and I further believe that it is not the question whether the 
world is going to be unified politically in the near future. 
I believe— and this is, I suppose, my most controversial 
assertion, but I am simply stating what I do sincerely think 
—I believe it is a foregone conclusion that the world is in 
any event going to be unified politically in the near future. 
(If you consider just two things, the degree of our present 
interdependence and the deadliness of our present weapons, 
and put these two considerations together, I do not see 
how you can arrive at any other conclusion.) 1 think the 
big and really formidable political issue to-day is, not 
t whether the world is soon going to be unified politically, 
but in which of two alternative possible ways this rapid 
unification is going to come about. 

There is the old-fashioned and unpleasantly familiar way 
of continual rounds of wars going on to a bitter end at 
which one surviving great power ‘knocks out’ its last re- 
maining competitor and imposes peace on the world by 
conquest. This is the way in which the Graeco-Roman 
world was forcibly united by Rome in the last century 
b.c., and the Far Eastern world in the third century b.c. 
by the Roman-minded principality of Ts’in. And then there 
is the new experiment in a co-operative government of the 
world— no, not quite a new one, because there were 
abortive attempts at finding a co-operative way out of the 
troubles that were actually brought to an end by the 



forcible imposition of the Pax Romana and the Pax Sinica; 
but our own pursuit, in our own lifetime, of this happier 
solution has been so much more resolute and so much more 
self-conscious that we may perhaps fairly regard it as a 
new departure. Our first attempt at it was the League of 
Nations; our second attempt is the United Nations organi- 
zation. It is evident that we are engaged here on a very 
difficult political pioneering enterprise over largely un- 
known ground. If this enterprise did succeed— even if only 
just so far as to save us from a repetition of ‘the knock-out 
blow’— it might open out quite new prospects for mankind: 
prospects that we have never sighted before during these 
last five or six thousand years that have seen us making a 
number of attempts at civilization. 

After greeting this gleam of hope on our horizon we 
should be sinking into a fool’s paradise if we did not also 
take note of the length and the roughness of the road that 
lies between our goal and the point at which we stand to- 
day. We are not likely to succeed in averting ‘the knock- 
out blow’ unless we take due account of the circumstances 
that unfortunately tell in favour of it. 

The first of these adverse circumstances, with which we 
have to contend, is the fact that, within the span of a single 
lifetime, the number of great powers of the highest ma- 
terial calibre— if we measure this calibre in terms of sheer 
war potential— has dwindled from eight to two. To-day, in 
the arena of naked power politics, the United States and 
the Soviet Union face one another alone. One more world 
war, and there might be only a solitary great power left to 
give the world its political unity by the old-fashioned 
method of the conqueror imposing his fiat. 

This startingly rapid fall in the number of great powers 
of the highest material calibre has been due to a sudden 



jump in the material scale of life, which has dwarfed 
powers of the dimensions of Great Britain and France by 
comparison with powers of the dimensions of the Soviet 
Union and the United States. Such sudden jumps have 
occurred before in history. Between five and four hundred 
years ago, powers of the dimensions of Venice and Florence 
were similarly dwarfed by the sudden emergence of powers 
of the dimensions of England and France. 

This dwarfing of the European powers by the United 
States and the Soviet Union would have happened, no 
doubt, in any case in course of time. It is, I should say, an 
inevitable ultimate consequence of the recent opening-up 
of the vast spaces of North America and Russia, and of 
the still more recent development of their resources by the 
application there, on a massive scale, of technical methods 
partly invented in the laboratories of Western Europe. But 
the time taken by this inevitable process might have been 
as much as a hundred years if it had not been telescoped 
into a third or a quarter of that span by the cumulative 
effect of two world wars. If the change had not been thus 
accelerated, it would have been a gradual process that 
might have allowed all parties time to adjust themselves 
to it more or less painlessly. As a result of its having been 
speeded up by th'e two wars, it has been a revolutionary 
process which has put all parties in a quandary. 

It is important for European observers to realize (as one 
does realize when he has been watching the reactions in the 
United States at first hand) that this speeding-up of the 
transfer of material power from the older powers of the 
inner ring in Europe to the younger powers of the outer 
r ing in America and Asia is as awkward for the Americans 
as it is for ourselves. The Americans are homesick for 
their comparatively carefree nineteenth-century past. At 

t U9] 


the same time, they realize, far more clearly, and also far 
more generally, than either they or we realized after the 
War of 1914-18, that it is impossible to put the clock back 
to a comfortable pre-war hour. They know that they have 
got to stay out in the world now, however much they 
may dislike the bleakness of the prospect. They are facing 
this unwelcome new chapter in their history with an un- 
enthusiastic confidence when they think of it in terms of 
the technical and economic jobs that they will be called 
upon to do in Greece and Turkey and in other foreign 
countries that, as the President warned them, may follow. 
But they express something like dismay when they are 
reminded that man does not live by bread alone, and that 
they will have to take a hand in politics as well as economics 
if they are to succeed in acclimatizing democracy, in the 
Western meaning of the term, in non-Western countries 
where they are intervening for this purpose. ‘Screen’ the 
political prisoners in Ruritania, and see to it that the Ruri- 
tanian government releases those who ought to be at 
liberty? Secure the transformation of the Ruritanian police 
from an agency for twisting the arms of the political op- 
ponents of the partisan government of the day into an 
agency for protecting the liberties of the subject? Bring 
about a corresponding reform of the Ruritanian courts of 
justice? If you suggest to Americans to-day that, when once 
they have implicated themselves in Ruritania, they will 
find it impossible to leave these political enterprises un- 
attempted, they are apt to exclaim that the United States 
does not command the personnel for handling jobs of this 
kind abroad. 

This uneasiness about incurring political responsibilities 
in politically backward foreign countries has aroused, in 
American minds, a sudden concern about the future of the 

[ I 3° ] 


British Empire. This concern, like most human feelings 
on most occasions, is, I should say, partly self-regarding 
and partly disinterested. The self-regarding consideration 
in American minds is the prospect that, if the British Em- 
pire were to disintegrate, it would leave a huge political 
vacuum— far larger and more perilous than the no-man’s- 
land in Greece and Turkey— into which the United States 
might find herself constrained to step in order to forestall 
the Soviet Union. The Americans have become alive to 
the convenience, for them, of the British Empire’s existence 
just at the moment when, as they see it, the British Empire 
is being liquidated. But this recently aroused American 
concern for the Empire is also largely disinterested and 
warm-hearted. The traditional American denunciation of 
British imperialism went hand in hand, I fancy, with an 
unconscious assumption that this British Empire was, for 
good or evil, one of the world’s established and abiding 
institutions. Now that the Americans really believe that 
the Empire is in its death agony, they are beginning to 
regret the imminent disappearance of so prominent and 
familiar an object in their political landscape, and are be- 
coming conscious of services performed by the Empire 
for the world, which they did not value and hardly noticed 
so long as they could take the continuance of those services 
for granted. 

This abrupt change in the American attitude towards 
the British Empire during the winter of 1946-7 was the 
consequence of American interpretations of current events. 
At that time, two facts were striking the American imagina- 
tion: the physical sufferings of the people of Great Britain, 
and the definite decision of the Government of the United 
Kingdom to withdraw from India in 1948. Taken together, 
these two facts made on American minds the impressiqn 



that the British Empire was ‘down and out’; and, in their 
sensational way, American commentators telescoped into 
a single instantaneous event the whole evolution of the 
British Empire since 1783, and at the same time assumed 
that the change had been wholly involuntary. As most 
Americans saw it, the United Kingdom had suddenly be- 
come too weak to hold the Empire by force any longer; 
few of them appeared to realize that the British people had 
learnt a tremendous lesson from the loss of the Thirteen 
Colonies and had been trying to apply that lesson ever 

In uninstructed American minds, the impression was that 
the Empire of King George III had existed practically 
unchanged till yesterday and was suddenly crumbling to- 
day; and, however wide of the mark it may seem to us 
to be, this American notion is not really so surprising as 
it must sound to British ears. On matters which do not 
happen to come within the range of our adult experience, 
all of us are apt to retain, uncriticized and unrevised, the 
crude and simple-minded conceptions that were suggested 
to us in childhood. There is, for instance, or used to be 
till lately, a British schoolboy legend that the French have 
no capacity for governing dependencies or handling back- 
ward peoples. The average American’s notion of the 
British Empire is similarly based on the legend of the Revo- 
lutionary War that he learned at school, and not on any 
first-hand grown-up observation of present facts. Many 
Americans, for instance, show ignorance even of the pres- 
ent status of Canada, though they themselves may be in 
constant personal contact with Canadians and, if they are, 
will have recognized them instinctively as being upstand- 
ing free people of the same kind as the Americans them- 
selves. Yet, so far from putting two and two together and 

[ U 2 ] 


looking into the facts afresh, it is as likely as not that they 
will have gone on imagining that Canada in their time is 
still being ruled from Downing Street and is paying taxes 
which she never paid to the Treasury in Whitehall. 

This explains in large measure why both the speed and 
the character of the change that has taken place in the 
constitution of the British Empire have been misconceived 
by many American minds. Yet, when all due correction 
of such misconceptions has been made, the British critic 
has, in his turn, to face the fact that, in the power of the 
Empire, as distinct from its constitution, a change has taken 
place that has been not only very great but also very 
rapid. The truth is that in terms of pure power politics— 
of sheer war potential— there are now only two great 
powers left confronting one another: the United States 
and the Soviet Union. The recognition of this fact in the 
United States explains the heart-searching caused by the 
announcement of ‘the Truman Doctrine.’ Americans real- 
ize that this is a turning-point in American history for two 
reasons. In the first place, it brings the United States right 
out of her traditional isolation; and in the second place the 
President’s move might turn out-however far this may 
have been from his intention-to have given the whole 
course of international affairs an impulsion away from the 
new co-operative method of trying to achieve political 
world unity, and towards the old-fashioned method of 
fighting out the last round in the struggle of power politics 
and arriv in g at the political unification of the world by 
the main force of a ‘knock-out blow.’ 

Having now reviewed the circumstances that tell in 
favour of this old-fashioned solution, we must arouse our- 
selves to get the better of them by reminding ourselves how 
utterly disastrous a ‘knock-out blow’ would be. It would 

[ U3 ] 


condemn mankind to go through at least one more world 
war. A third world war would be fought with atomic and 
other perhaps not less deadly new weapons. Moreover, in 
previous cases— for example, the forcible unification of the 
Chinese world by the principality of Ts’in, and of the 
Graeco-Roman world by Rome— the achievement of a 
long overdue political unification through a ‘knock-out 
blow’ has been purchased at the prohibitive price of in- 
flicting mortal wounds on the society that has had unity 
imposed upon it by this extreme resort to force. 

If we thought of these wounds in material terms, and 
tried to estimate the capacity of different civilizations for 
reconstruction as well as destruction, it might not be easy 
to draw up strictly comparable balance-sheets for our 
modern Western civilization on the one hand and for the 
Graeco-Roman and Chinese civilizations on the other. No 
doubt we have a far greater capacity to reconstruct as 
well as to destroy than the Chinese and the Romans' had. 
On the other hand, a simpler social structure has a far 
greater spontaneous recuperative power than a more com- 
plicated one has. When I see our re-building programme 
in Great Britain being retarded by shortages of skilled 
labour and of highly processed materials, and perhaps not 
least by the mere complication of the administrative ma- 
chine, my mind goes back to a glimpse that I had in 1923 
of a Turkish village reconstructing itself after it had been 
devastated in the last phase of the Graeco-Turkish War of 
a.d. 1919-22. Those Turkish villagers were not dependent 
on materials or labour from outside, and they were not at 
the mercy of red tape. They were rebuilding their houses 
and replacing their household utensils and agricultural imple- 
ments with their own hands, out of wood and clay within 
their reach. Who can estimate whether New York, after 

[ 134] 


a third world war, would fare materially as well as Yeni 
Keui after 1922 or as badly as Carthage after 146 b.c.? 
The self-inflicted wounds from which civilizations die are 
not, however, those of a material order. In the past, at any 
rate, it has been the spiritual wounds that have proved in- 
curable; and since, beneath all the variety of cultures, there 
is uniformity in man’s spiritual nature, we may guess that 
the spiritual devastation produced by a ‘knock-out blow’ 
is of about the same deadly degree of severity in every 

Yet, if the coercive method of attaining political world 
unity is immeasurably disastrous, the co-operative method, 
on its side, bristles with difficulties. 

At the present moment, for example, we can see the 
great powers trying— perhaps unavoidably— to do at the 
same time two things which are not only different but 
which militate against one another all the time and are 
quite incompatible in the long run. They are trying to 
launch a new system of co-operative world government 
without being able to forecast its chances of success, and 
they are safeguarding themselves against the possibility of 
its being a failure by continuing to manoeuvre against one 
another, in the old-fashioned way, in a game of power 
politics which, if persisted in, can only lead to a third world 
war and a ‘knock-out blow.’ 

The United Nations organization may fairly be described 
as a political machine for putting into effect the maximum 
possible amount of co-operation between the United States 
and the Soviet Union— the two great powers who would 
be the principal antagonists in a final round of naked 
power politics. The present constitution of the U.N. rep- 
resents the closest degree of co-operation that the United 
States and the Soviet Union can reach at present. This con- 

[ 135 ] 


stitution is a very loose confederation, and the presiding 
genius of Chatham House, Lionel Curtis, has pointed out 
that political associations of this loose-knit type have never 
proved stable or lasting in the past. 

The United Nations organization after the World War 
of 1939-45 is in the same stage as the United States after 
the War of Independence. In either case, during the war, 
a strong common fear of a dangerous common enemy held 
a loose association of states together. The existence of this 
common enemy was like a life-belt keeping the association 
afloat. When the common enemy has been removed by 
defeat, the association that was launched on his account 
has to sink or swim without the unintended but most effi- 
cacious aid which the common enemy’s existence provided. 
In such post-war circumstances a loose confederation can- 
not long remain in its original state: sooner or later it must 
either break up or be transformed into a genuine and 
effective federation. 

A federation, in order to be a lasting success, seems to 
require a high degree of homogeneity between the con- 
stituent states. It is true that in Switzerland and in Canada 
we see remarkable examples of effective federations that 
have successfully surmounted formidable differences of 
language and religion. But would any sober-minded ob- 
server to-day venture to name a date at which a federation 
between the United States and the Soviet Union might 
become practical politics?— and those are the two states 
that have to be federated if federal union is to save us from 
a third world war. 

Yet these obvious difficulties in the path of the co- 
operative method of working towards the inevitable goal 
of world unity must not daunt us, because this method 



brings with it certain unique benefits that no alternative 
can offer. 

It is only if there is some constitutional form of world 
government that powers can continue to count as great 
powers— and really to play that part— in spite of their war 
potential being no longer a match for the war potential 
of the Soviet Union and the United States. In an even par- 
tially constitutional world community, Great Britain, the 
continental West European countries, and the Dominions 
can still have an influence in international counsels far 
in excess of the ratio of their war potential to that of ‘the 
Big Two.’ In an even semi-parliamentary international 
forum, the political experience, maturity, and moderation 
of countries like these will weigh heavily in the balance 
alongside of the grosser weight of Brennus’ sword. In a 
pure power-politics world, on the other hand, these highly 
civilized but materially less powerful states will count for 
nothing compared with the United States and the Soviet 
Union. In a third world war, all of them— except perhaps 
South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand— will be battle- 
fields. This will be especially the fate of Great Britain and 
Canada— a prospect of which the Canadians, as well as the 
English, are well aware. 

As we look this dangerous situation in the face, some fur- 
ther questions suggest themselves. 

In politics, unlike personal relations, the saying that ‘two 
is company, three is none’ is the very opposite of the truth. 
Where eight great powers, or even three great powers, 
can be gathered together, it is less difficult to manage a co- 
operative government of the world than where we can 
muster no more than two. This obvious reflexion raises the 
question whether it is possible to call into existence a third 
great power which could be the peer of the United States 

[ *37 ] 


and the Soviet Union on all planes: a match for each of 
them in terms of war potential in the arena of power poli- 
tics, and their moral and political equal in the international 
council chamber in so far as mankind succeeds in its present 
political pioneering enterprise of substituting the humane 
device of constitutional government for the blind play of 
physical force in the conduct of international relations. 

Could this role of a third great power in every sense— a 
role which the United Kingdom, by itself, no longer has 
the material strength to sustain— be filled by the British 
Commonwealth collectively? The short answer to this 
question is, I think: ‘On a bare statistical test, yes; on a geo- 
graphical and political test, no.’ 

In the counsels of a constitutionally governed world, 
the states members of the Commonwealth will carry great 
weight because they are a large contingent in the small 
company of states that are politically mature, and also be- 
cause they will be apt to speak with much the same voice 
—not because their policy will have been regimented, con- 
certed, or even co-ordinated in advance, but because they 
have vitally important things in common in their political, 
social, and spiritual traditions and have not ceased to live 
in unusually close and friendly relations with one another 
since they have moved off on their separate roads towards 
the goal of self-government. But, in order to transform the 
Commonwealth into a third great power by making it as 
powerful collectively as its members are influential in the 
aggregate, the countries of the Commonwealth would have 
to weld themselves together into a massive military unity 
as highly centralized as the Soviet Union is at all times and 
as the United States is in time of war; and one has only 
to state this requirement in order to see that it is quite 
impracticable. It would mean reversing the direction in 



which the Commonwealth has been consistently and de- 
liberately moving since 1783, and scrapping cumulative 
results of this evolution which are the cherished joint 
achievements of the people of the United Kingdom and 
the peoples of the other countries in the Commonwealth 
that have attained self-government, on a par with the 
United Kingdom, in the course of this last century and 
a half. 

One cannot have one’s cake and eat it. One cannot put 
one’s treasure in progressive devolution aiming at a maxi- 
mum of self-government in as many parts of the Com- 
monwealth as may display or develop an aptitude for 
governing themselves, and at the same time expect to com- 
mand the collective military strength which the govern- 
ment at Moscow— to take as an illustration the most perti- 
nent case in point— has been consistently and deliberately 
building up for the last six centuries at the cost of liberty, 
variety, and other political and spiritual blessings which 
the Commonwealth countries have secured for themselves 
at the cost of collective power. The Commonwealth coun- 
tries cannot repudiate their ideals and unravel the web of 
history that they have woven for themselves; they would 
not do this if they could; and, even if they could and 
would perform this left-handed miracle, they would have 
thrown away their birthright in vain; for, at however great 
a sacrifice of the Commonwealth’s characteristic virtues 
and achievements, the Commonwealth could never be con- 
solidated, either politically or geographically, to a degree 
that would make it a match for the United States or the 
Soviet Union in military power in terms of atomic war- 
fare. In the game of power politics, a consolidated Com- 
monwealth would still be a pawn, or at the most a knight, 
but never a queen. 

C U9] 


If the British Commonwealth cannot fill the role of 
‘Third Great Power’ in the world after the War of 1939-45, 
could the part be played by a United States of Europe? 
This suggestion, too, wears a promising appearance at first 
sight; but it, in turn, fails to stand the test of examination. 

Hitler once said that, if Europe seriously wanted to be 
a power in the world in our time (and by ‘power,’ of 
course, Hitler meant brute military strength), then Europe 
must welcome and embrace the Fiihrer’s policy; and this 
hard saying was surely the truth. Hitler’s Europe— a Europe 
forcibly united by German conquest and consolidated un- 
der German domination— is the only kind of Europe that 
could conceivably be a match in war potential for either 
the Soviet Union or the United States; and a Europe united 
under German ascendency is utterly abhorrent to all non- 
German Europeans. Some of them have been subjected 
to the appalling experience of German conquest and domi- 
nation twice in one lifetime; most of them have undergone 
it during the Second World War; and the handful that have 
escaped have been near enough to the fire and sufficiently 
scorched by its heat to share the feelings of those who 
have been burnt outright. 

In a European Union excluding both the Soviet Union 
and the United States— and that, ex hypothesi, is the point 
of departure for trying to construct a European ‘Third 
Great Power’— Germany must come to the top sooner or 
later by one means or another, even if this United Europe 
were to be presented, at the start, with a Germany that 
was disarmed and decentralized or even divided. In the 
Raitm that lies between the United States and the Soviet 
Union, Germany occupies a commanding central position; 
the German nation is half as numerous again as the next 
most numerous nation in Europe; the German-inhabited 



heart of Europe (not reckoning in either Austria or the 
German-speaking part of Switzerland) contains a pre- 
ponderant proportion of Europe’s total resources— in raw 
materials, plant, and human skill— for heavy industry; and 
the Germans are as efficient in organizing both human and 
non-human raw materials for making war as they are in- 
ept in trying to govern themselves and intolerable as rulers 
of other people. On whatever terms Germany were to be 
included, at the start, in a United Europe that did not 
include either America or Russia, she would become the 
mistress of such a Europe in the long run; and, even if the 
supremacy which she has failed to win by force in two 
wars were to come to her, this time, peacefully and grad- 
ually, no non-German European will believe that the Ger- 
mans, once they realized that this power was within their 
grasp, would have the wisdom or self-restraint to refrain 
from plying the whip and digging in the spurs. This Ger- 
man crux would appear to be an insurmountable obstacle 
to the construction of a European ‘Third Great Power.’ 

Nor, in the world as it is to-day, could a militarily con- 
solidated Europe look forward with any more reasonable 
hope than a militarily consolidated British Commonwealth 
to making itself a match for the United States or the 
Soviet Union at the cost of sacrificing cherished liberties. 
In Western Europe, especially (and Western Europe is 
the heart of Europe), the traditions of national individu- 
ality are so strong that the closest practicable European 
Union would be too loosely knit to be more than a pawn 
in the power game, even if this United Europe included 
the British Isles on the west and the countries now under 
Russian domination on the east, and even if the peoples 
of Europe as a whole tried their hardest to swallow Hitler’s 
unpalatable gospel. 

[ I 4 I I 


Where, then, are we to find our third great power? If 
not in Europe and not in the British Commonwealth, then 
certainly not in China or India; for, in spite of their ancient 
civilizations and their vast populations, territories, and re- 
sources, these two mammoths are most unlikely to prove 
able to exert their latent strength during the critical period 
of history that lies, we may guess, immediately ahead of 
us. We are driven to the conclusion that we cannot hope 
to ease the tensity of the present international situation by 
raising the number of powers of the highest military calibre 
through adding even one to the two that now confront 
one another. And this leads us to a final question: if we 
cannot see our way to any rapid attainment of the goal 
of world unity by constitutional co-operation, can we find 
some way of postponing the terrible alternative of unifica- 
tion by force? Could two separate political worlds be 
delimited— one under the hegemony of the United States 
and the other under the domination of the Soviet Union? 
And, if a demarcation line between them, encircling the 
globe, could be drawn without bringing the two great 
powers to blows, could an American world and a Russian 
world exist side by side, on the face of the same planet, 
for more than a short time without falling into war with 
one another, as, under different social and technological 
traditions, a Roman world and a Chinese world did once 
co-exist for several centuries without war and indeed al- 
most without intercourse of any kind? If we could win 
time for peace by a provisional recourse to insulation, per- 
haps the social climates of the political universes on either 
side of the dividing line might gradually influence one an- 
other until they had become like enough to make it pos- 
sible for the Soviet Union and the United States to enter, 
in an auspicious hour, into that effective political co-opera- 

[ *4 2 1 


tion with one another that is at present beyond their reach 
by reason of the ideological and cultural gulf that now 
divides them. 

What prospects are there of the United States’ and the 
Soviet Union’s practising ‘non-violent non-co-operation’ 
towards one another over a span of thirty, fifty, a hundred 
years? If a dividing line could be drawn round the world, 
would that leave elbow-room enough for each of them in 
her own sphere? The answer to our question would be 
an encouraging one if we could render it in economic terms 
alone; for each of these giants has ample economic elbow- 
room not only within its own sphere of influence but 
within its own political frontiers. One of the considera- 
tions that drove the rulers of Nazi Germany and con- 
temporary Japan into aggressive war was their inability to 
provide more than a minority of their young men with 
jobs that satisfied their expectations, or even with jobs of 
any kind. By contrast, both Russia and America to-day 
have openings enough and to spare for the rising genera- 
tion for as many years as anyone can see ahead. If man 
were nothing more than economic man, there would be 
no reason in the world why Russia and America should 
collide with one another for generations to come. But, 
unfortunately, man is a political as well as an economic 
animal. He has to contend not only with want but with 
fear, and, on the plane of ideas and ideologies, Russia and 
America cannot so easily avoid crossing each other s path 
by staying at home and each cultivating her own ample 
garden. On this plane, the social climates of the two great 
powers will undoubtedly influence one another, but this 
mutual influence will not by any means necessarily be 
pacific in its effect or lead towards reciprocal assimilation; 
ft might alternatively produce a thunderstorm or an ex- 

[ *43 1 


plosion. Neither the Capitalist nor the Communist world 
is immune against subversive influences radiating from the 
other; for neither of them is the earthly paradise that it 
claims to be; and they reveal their fears in the measures 
which each takes to protect itself against the other’s radia- 
tion. The iron curtain with which the Soviet Union at- 
tempts to screen off the outer world tells its own tale elo- 
quently. But on the Capitalist side there is a corresponding, 
though less paralysing, fear of Communist missionary ac- 
tivity; and, while in democratic countries this fear does 
not express itself in governmental bans on personal inter- 
course, it does very readily become inflamed into a panic- 
stricken hysteria. 

Fear, then, might do what want could hardly do in 
causing Russia and America to fall foul of one another. 
But how, it might be asked, could this lead to an outright 
ordeal by battle between antagonists of such extremely 
unequal strength? The United States, with her immense 
superiority in industrial equipment, now capped by her 
monopoly of the ‘know-how’ of the manufacture of the 
atom bomb, is so much stronger than the Soviet Union 
that, short of attempting to wrench out of her rival’s grip 
some country upon which the Soviet Union has already 
fastened its hold, it is apparently possible to-day for the 
United States to assert her own protectorate over any 
country she chooses in the no-man’s-land between the 
Soviet Union and herself, with little danger of the Soviet 
Union’s attempting to oppose her by overt force. This 
is illustrated by the impunity with which the United States 
has been able to spread her aegis over Greece and Turkey, 
though these two countries lie on the very threshold of 
the approaches to the Soviet Union’s principal granary and 
arsenal in the Ukraine and the Caucasus. This would mean 

[ i44] 


that the United States- has it in her power to draw the 
demarcation line between an American and a Russian 
sphere close round the present fringes of the Soviet Union’s 
political domain. That would give the United States the 
lion’s share of a partitioned globe. And this— so we might 
be inclined, on first thoughts, to conclude the argument— 
would augment America’s already great preponderance 
over Russia very notably. 

This conclusion, however, is one which second thoughts 
might revise. On such a division of the world, the pre- 
ponderance of the United States would indeed be over- 
whelming statistically, but that, after all, is a theoretical 
and possibly misleading basis of comparison. In political, 
social, and ideological terms, would the ratio of strength 
be the same as in terms of area, population, and produc- 
tivity? Could an American-led three-quarters or four-fifths 
of the world be so closely united in itself politically, so- 
cially, and ideologically as to be impervious to Russian 
missionary activity? Or, to put this last question the other 
way round, how far would the majority of the inhabitants 
of our hypothetical American sphere of influence be likely 
to be attracted by the present rather conservative Ameri- 
can gospel of out-and-out individualism? 

The present American ideology lays great stress on the 
value of freedom, but seems less keenly alive to the need 
for social justice. This is not at all surprising in an ideology 
that is a home-grown product; for, in the United States 
to-day, the minimum standard of living is so extraordinarily 
high that there is not a crying need to curb the freedom 
of the able, the strong, and the rich in order to deal out a 
dole of elementary social justice to the incompetent, the 
weak, and the poor. But the material well-being of the 
people of the United States is, of course, something ex- 

[ H5 ] 


ceptional in the world as it is to-day. The overwhelming 
majority of the living generation of mankind— beginning 
with a foreign-bom or foreign-descended underworld in 
the United States itself, and ending with nearly a thousand 
million Chinese and Indian peasants and coolies— is to-day 
‘under-privileged,’ and is becoming increasingly conscious 
of its plight, and increasingly restive at it. In an unequally 
divided planet, the majority of this vast mass of primitive 
suffering humanity would be on the American side of the 
line; and to appreciate the utterly un-American problems 
of this miserable flock would demand an almost super- 
humanly imaginative and benevolent sympathy on the part 
of their American shepherds. Here, for the American, 
would be his Achilles’ heel, and, for the Russian, his oppor- 
tunity to sow tares in his adversary’s field. To look at the 
situation through Russian eyes, there might seem, in these 
circumstances, to be quite a promising prospect of at any 
rate partly redressing, by propaganda, a balance that , had 
been upset by the American discovery of the ‘know-how’ 
of the atom bomb. 

In a divided world in which the Americans had to fear 
the effects of Russian propaganda on vast non-American 
populations under the aegis of the United States, while the 
Soviet Government, on its side, was terrified of the attrac- 
tion which the capitalist way of life might have for any 
Soviet citizens who came into personal contact with it, 
the prospects of stability and peace would evidently be 
unpromising if there were no other factor in the situation. 
Fortunately a third factor, and a constructive one, would 
be provided by Great Britain and several of the continental 
West European countries. 

In this post-war chapter of history, these West European 
countries are in an intermediate position between the 



United States and the overseas Dominions of the British 
Commonwealth on the one hand and the politically and 
economically backward countries on the other. Post-war 
conditions in Western Europe are not so bad as to give 
the desperate remedies prescribed by Communism that at- 
traction for Englishmen, Dutchmen, Belgians, and Scandi- 
navians that they might have for the flagrantly ‘under-privi- 
leged’ majority of Mexicans, Egyptians, Indians, and Chi- 
nese; but Western Europe is at the same time not so 
prosperous as to be able to afford the undiluted regime 
of private enterprise that still prevails in North America 
above the Rio Grande. In these circumstances, Great 
Britain and her West European neighbours are each trying 
to arrive at a working compromise— suited to their own 
economic conditions here and now, and subject to modifi- 
cation in either direction as these conditions may change 
for better or for worse— between unrestricted free enter- 
prise and unlimited socialism. 

If these West European social experiments achieve any 
measure of success, they may prove a valuable contribu- 
tion to the welfare of the world as a whole. Not that they 
could serve as ‘blue prints’ for automatic application else- 
where; for the different peoples of the world, who have 
suddenly been brought into close quarters with one an- 
other physically through the many inventions of the West, 
are still divided from one another politically, economically, 
socially, and psychologically by differences that it will 
take time to overcome. In a world in this stage of social 
evolution, a particular local and temporary solution of a 
world-wide problem cannot be applicable, as it stands, out- 
side the country where it has been worked out by trial 
and error to fit the local conditions of the moment. But 
perhaps here we have put our finger on the service which 

[ 147 ] 


the West European countries can perform for the world 
to-day. An awkward feature of the American ideology 
of free enterprise— as well as of the Russian ideology of 
Communism— is precisely that it presents a social ‘blue print’ 
as a panacea for every conceivable social ill in every known 
set of social circumstances. But this does not fit the facts 
of real life. In real life, every social system that can be 
observed at first hand or reconstructed from records is a 
mixed system, lying at some point between the two theo- 
retical poles of undiluted socialism and undiluted free 
enterprise. The statesman’s task is to strike that note in 
the gamut that tunes in with the particular social circum- 
stances of his time and place; to find the right mixture 
between free enterprise and socialism for driving his truck- 
of-state on the particular gradient on which it happens to 
be travelling at the moment. What the world needs above 
all now is to get the issue of free enterprise versus socialism 
off its ideological pedestal and to treat it, not as a matter 
of semi-religious faith and fanaticism, but as a common- 
sense, practical question of trial and error, of, more or less, 
circumstance and adaptation. 

If Western Europe could influence the rest of the world 
in this direction in the chapter of history ahead of us, that 
might be not only a great contribution to prosperity but 
also a great service to peace. It might be one of the influ- 
ences that would gradually break down the social, cultural, 
and ideological barriers between the United States and the 
Soviet Union. But, as has been suggested more than once 
in this paper, there has to be a minimum of constitutional 
co-operative government in the world to allow countries 
of the material calibre of the United Kingdom or the 
Netherlands to exercise influence in a world-society in 
which, as a result of one of those changes in the scale of 

[ 148 ] 


material life that overtake us from time to time, the only 
surviving great powers, in terms of sheer waf potential, are 
giants of the tremendous calibre of the Soviet Union and 
the United States. 

Could this West European influence work its beneficent 
unifying effect in a world unequally divided into an Ameri- 
can and a Russian sphere? If it could, this might be a 
second line to fall back on if our second attempt at co- 
operative world government were to fail like the first. 
But it would, of course, be far better if the United Nations 
organization could be carried through to success, and this, 
I would suggest to you most earnestly, is the goal towards 
which we ought still to strive with all our might, without 
allowing ourselves to be dismayed or deterred by difficul- 
ties, however baffling, at a stage which is, after all, still 
a very early one in the United Nations’ career, 

[ H9 ] 




Our present Western outlook on history is an extraor- 
dinarily contradictory one. While our historical horizon 
has been expanding vastly in both the space dimension and 
the time dimension, our historical vision— what we actually 
do see, in contrast to what we now could see if we chose 
—has been contracting rapidly to the narrow field of what 
a horse sees between its blinkers or what a U-boat com- 
mander sees through his periscope. 

This is certainly extraordinary; yet it is only one of 
a number of contradictions of this kind that seem to be 
characteristic of the times in which we are living. There 
are other examples that probably loom larger in the minds 
of most of us. For instance, our world has risen to an un- 
precedented degree of humanitarian feeling. There is now 
a recognition of the human rights of people of all classes, 
nations, and races; yet at the same time we have sunk to 
perhaps unheard-of depths of class warfare, nationalism, 
and racialism. These bad passions find vent in cold-blooded, 
scientifically planned cruelties; and the two incompatible 

C 15° ] 


states of mind and standards of conduct are to be seen 
to-day, side by side, not merely in the same world, but 
sometimes in the same country and even in the same soul. 

Again, we now have an unprecedented power of produc- 
tion side by side with unprecedented shortages. We have 
invented machines to work for us, but have less spare labour 
than ever before for human service— even for such an essen- 
tial and elementary service as helping mothers to look after 
their babies. We have persistent alternations of widespread 
unemployment with famines of man-power. Undoubtedly, 
the contrast between our expanding historical horizon and 
our contracting historical vision is something character- 
istic of our age. Yet, looked at in itself, what an astonishing 
contradiction it is! 

Let us remind ourselves first of the recent expansion of 
our horizon. In space, our Western field of vision has ex- 
panded to take in the whole of mankind over all the habit- 
able and traversable surface of this planet, and the whole 
stellar universe in which this planet is an infinitesimally 
small speck of dust. In time, our Western field of vision 
has expanded to take in all the civilizations that have risen 
and fallen during these last 6000 years; the previous history 
of the human race back to its genesis between 600,000 and 
a million years ago; the history of life on this planet back 
to perhaps 800 million years ago. What a marvellous widen- 
ing of our historical horizon! Yet, at the same time, our 
field of historical vision has been contracting; it has been 
tending to shrink within the narrow limits in time and 
space of the particular republic or kingdom of which 
each of us happens to be a citizen. The oldest surviving 
Western states— say France or England— have so far had no 
more than a thousand years of continuous political exist- 
ence; the largest existing Western state— say Brazil or the 

[ 151 ] 


United States— embraces only a very small fraction of 
the total inhabited surface of the Earth. 

Before the widening of our horizon began— before our 
Western seamen circumnavigated the globe, and before 
our Western cosmogonists and geologists pushed out the 
bounds of our universe in both time and space— our pre- 
nationalist mediaeval ancestors had a broader and juster 
historical vision than we have to-day. For them, history 
did not mean the history of one’s own parochial com- 
munity; it meant the history of Israel, Greece, and Rome. 
And, even if they were mistaken in believing that the world 
was created in 4004 B.C., it is at any rate better to look as 
far back as 4004 b.c. than to look back no farther than the 
Declaration of Independence or the voyages of the May- 
flower or Columbus or Hengist and Horsa. (As a matter 
of fact, 4004 b.c. happens, though our ancestors did not 
know this, to be a quite important date: it approximately 
marks the first appearance of representatives of the species 
of human society called civilizations.) 

Again, for our ancestors, Rome and Jerusalem meant 
much more than their own home towns. When our Anglo- 
Saxon ancestors were converted to Roman Christianity at 
the end of the sixth century of the Christian era, they 
learned Latin, studied the treasures of sacred and profane 
literature to which a knowledge of the Latin language 
gives access, and went on pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusa- 
lem— and this in an age when the difficulties and dangers 
of travelling were such as to make modern war-time travel- 
ling seem child’s play. Our ancestors seem to have been big- 
minded, and this is a great intellectual virtue as well as 
a great moral one, for national histories are unintelligible 
within their own time limits and space limits. 




In the time dimension, you cannot understand the history 
of England if you begin only at the coming of the Eng- 
lish to Britain, any better than you can understand the 
history of the United States if you begin only at the com- 
ing of the English to North America. In the space dimen- 
sion, likewise, you cannot understand the history of a 
country if you cut its outlines out of the map of the world 
and rule out of consideration anything that has originated 
outside that particular country’s frontiers. 

What are the epoch-making events in the national 
histories of the United States and the United Kingdom? 
Working back from the present towards the past, I should 
say they were the two world wars, the Industrial Revo- 
lution, the Reformation, the Western voyages of discovery, 
the Renaissance, the conversion to Christianity. Now I 
defy anyone to tell the history of either the United States 
or the United Kingdom without making these events the 
cardinal ones, or to explain these events as local Ameri- 
can or local English affairs. To explain these major events 
in the history of any Western country, the smallest unit 
that one can take into account is the whole of Western 
Christendom. By Western Christendom I mean the Roman 
Catholic and Protestant world— the adherents of the Patri- 
archate of Rome who have maintained their allegiance to 
the Papacy, together with the former adherents who have 
repudiated it. 

But the history of Western Christendom, too, is un- 
intelligible within its own time limits and space limits. 
While Western Christendom is a much better unit than 
the United States or the United Kingdom or France for a 
historian to operate with, it too turns out, on inspection, 



to be inadequate. In the time dimension, it goes back only 
to the close of the Dark Ages following the collapse of 
the western part of the Roman Empire; that is, it goes 
back less than 1300 years, and 1300 years is less than a 
quarter of the 6000 years during which the species of 
society represented by Western Christendom has been in 
existence. Western Christendom is a civilization belonging 
to the third of the three generations of civilizations that 
there have been so far. 

In the space dimension, the narrowness of the limits of 
Western Christendom is still more striking. If you look at 
the physical map of the world as a whole, you will see 
that the small part of it which is dry land consists of a 
single continent— Asia— which has a number of peninsulas 
and off-lying islands. Now, what are the farthest limits to 
which Western Christendom has managed to expand? You 
will find them at Alaska and Chile on the west and at Fin- 
land and Dalmatia on the east. What lies between those 
four points is Western Christendom’s domain at its widest. 
And what does that domain amount to? Just the tip of 
Asia’s European peninsula, together with a couple of large 
islands. (By these two large islands, I mean, of course, 
North and South America.) Even if you add in the out- 
lying and precarious footholds of the Western world in 
South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, its total habit- 
able present area amounts to only a very minor part of 
the total habitable area of the surface of the planet. And 
you cannot understand the history of Western Christen- 
dom within its own geographical limits. 

Western Christendom is a product of Christianity, but 
Christianity did not arise in the Western world; it arose 
outside the bounds of Western Christendom, in a district 
that lies today within the domain of a different civilization: 



Islam. We Western Christians did once try to capture 
from the Muslims the cradle of our religion in Palestine. 
If the Crusades had succeeded, Western Christendom 
would have slightly broadened its footing on the all-im- 
portant Asiatic mainland. But the Crusades ended in failure. 

Western Christendom is merely one of five civilizations 
that survive in the world to-day; and these are merely five 
out of about nineteen that one can identify as having come 
into existence since the first appearance of representatives 
of this species of society about 6000 years ago. 


To take the four other surviving civilizations first: if 
the firmness of a civilization’s foothold on the continent— 
by which I mean the solid land-mass of Asia— may be taken 
as giving a rough indication of that civilization’s relative 
expectation of life, then the other four surviving civiliza- 
tions are ‘better lives’— in the jargon of the life insurance 
business— than our own Western Christendom. 

Our sister civilization, Orthodox Christendom, straddles 
the continent from the Baltic to the Pacific and from the 
Mediterranean to the Arctic Ocean: it occupies the north- 
ern half of Asia and the eastern half of Asia’s European 
peninsula. Russia overlooks the back doors of all the other 
civilizations; from White Russia and North-Eastern Siberia 
she overlooks the Polish and Alaskan back doors of our 
own Western world; from the Caucasus and Central Asia 
she overlooks the back doors of the Islamic and Hindu 
worlds; from Central and Eastern Siberia she overlooks 
the back door of the Far Eastern world. 

Our half-sister civilization, Islam, also has a firm footing 
on the continent. The domain of Islam stretches from the 
heart of the Asiatic continent in North-Western China all 

[ 155 ] 


the way to the west coast of Asia’s African peninsula. At 
Dakar, the Islamic world commands the continental ap- 
proaches to the straits that divide Asia’s African peninsula 
from the island of South America. Islam also has a firm 
footing in Asia’s Indian peninsula. 

As for the Hindu society and the Far Eastern society, it 
needs no demonstration to show that the 400 million .Hindus 
and the 400 or 500 million Chinese have a firm foothold on 
the continent. 

But we must not exaggerate the importance of any of 
these surviving civilizations just because, at this moment, 
they happen to be survivors. If, instead of thinking in terms 
of ‘expectation of life,’ we think in terms of achievement, 
a rough indication of relative achievement may be found 
in the giving of birth to individual souls that have con- 
ferred lasting blessings on the human race. 

Now who are the individuals who are the greatest bene- 
factors of the living generation of mankind? I should say: 
Confucius and Lao-tse; the Buddha; the Prophets of Israel 
and Judah; Zoroaster, Jesus, and Muhammad; and Socrates. 
And not one of these lasting benefactors of mankind hap- 
pens to be a child of any of the five living civilizations. 
Confucius and Lao-tse were children of a now extinct Far 
Eastern civilization of an earlier generation; the Buddha 
was the child of a now extinct Indian civilization of an 
earlier generation. Hosea, Zoroaster, Jesus, and Muham- 
mad were children of a now extinct Syrian civilization. 
Socrates was the child of a now extinct Greek civilization. 

Within the last 400 years, all the five surviving civiliza- 
tions have been brought into contact with each other as 
a result of the enterprise of two of them: the expansion 
of Western Christendom from the tip of Asia’s European 
peninsula over the ocean, and the expansion of Orthodox 

[156 3 


Christendom overland across the whole breadth of the 
Asiatic continent. 

The expansion of Western Christendom displays two 
special features: being oceanic, it is the only expansion 
of a civilization to date that has been literally world-wide 
in the sense of extending over the whole habitable portion 
of the Earth’s surface; and, owing to the ‘conquest of space 
and time’ by modem mechanical means, the spread of 
the network of Western material civilization has brought 
the different parts of the world into far closer physical 
contact than ever before. But, even in these points, the 
expansion of the Western civilization differs in degree 
only, and not in kind, from the contemporary overland 
expansion of Russian Orthodox Christendom, and from 
similar expansions of other civilizations at earlier dates. 

There are earlier expansions that have made important 
contributions towards the present unification of mankind 
—with its corollary, the unification of our vision of human 
history. The now extinct Syrian civilization was propa- 
gated to the Atlantic coasts of Asia’s European and African 
peninsulas westward by the Phoenicians, to the tip of 
Asia’s Indian peninsula south-eastwards by the Himyarites 
and Nestorians, and to the Pacific north-eastwards by the 
Manichaeans and Nestorians. It expanded in two directions 
overseas and in a third direction overland. Any visitor to 
Peking will have seen a striking monument of the Syrian 
civilization’s overland cultural conquests. In the trilingual 
inscriptions of the Manchu Dynasty of China at Peking, 
the Manchu and Mongol texts are inscribed in the Syriac 
form of our alphabet, not in Chinese characters. 

Other examples of the expansion of now extinct civiliza- 
tions are the propagation of the Greek civilization overseas 
westwards to Marseilles by the Greeks themselves, overland 

[ 157 ] 


northwards to the Rhine and Danube by the Romans, and 
overland eastwards to the interiors of India and China by 
the Macedonians; and the expansion of the Sumerian civili- 
zation in all directions overland from its cradle in ‘Iraq. 


As a result of these successive expansions of particular 
civilizations, the whole habitable world has now been 
unified into a single great society. The movement through 
which this process has been finally consummated is thf 
modern expansion of Western Christendom. But we have 
to bear in mind, first, that this expansion of Western Chris- 
tendom has merely completed the unification of the world 
and has not been the agency that has produced more than 
the last stage of the process; and, second, that, though the 
unification of the world has been finally achieved within 
a Western framework, the present Western ascendency in 
the world is certain not to last. 

In a unified world, the eighteen non-Western civiliza- 
tions— four of them living, fourteen of them extinct— will 
assuredly reassert their influence. And as, in the course 
of generations and centuries, a unified world gradually 
works its way toward an equilibrium between its diverse 
component cultures, the Western component will gradu- 
ally be relegated to the modest place which is all that it 
can expect to retain in virtue of its intrinsic worth by com- 
parison with those other cultures— surviving and extinct— 
which the Western society, through its modern expansion, 
has brought into association with itself and with one an- 

History, seen in this perspective, makes, I feel, the fol- 
lowing call upon historians of our generation and of the 
generations that will come after ours. If we are to per- 



form the full service that we have the power to perform 
for our fellow human beings— the important service of 
helping them to find their bearings in a unified world— we 
must make the necessary effort of imagination and effort 
of will to break our way out of the prison walls of the 
local and short-lived histories of our own countries and 
our own cultures, and we must accustom ourselves to 
taking a synoptic view of history as a whole. 

Our first task is to perceive, and to present to other 
people, the history of all the known civilizations, surviv- 
ing and extinct, as a unity. There are, I believe, two ways 
in which this can be done. 

One way is to study the encounters between civilizations, 
of which I have mentioned four outstanding examples. 
These encounters between civilizations are historically illu- 
minating, not only because they bring a number of civiliza- 
tions into a single focus of vision, but also because, out 
of encounters between civilizations, the higher religions 
have been born— the worship, perhaps originally Sumerian, 
of the Great Mother and her Son who suffers and dies and 
rises again; Judaism and Zoroastrianism, which sprang from 
an encounter between the Syrian and Babylonian civiliza- 
tions; . Christianity and Islam, which sprang from an en- 
counter between the Syrian and Greek civilizations; the 
Mahayana form of Buddhism and Hinduism, which sprang 
from an encounter between the Indian and Greek civiliza- 
tions. The future of mankind in this world— if mankind is 
going to have a future in this world— lies, I believe, with 
these higher religions that have appeared within the last 
4000 years (and all but the first within the last 3000 years), 
and not with the civilizations whose encounters have pro- 
vided opportunities for the higher religions to come to 

[ 159] 


A second way of studying the history of all the known 
civilizations as a unity is to make a comparative study of 
their individual histories, looking at them as so many rep- 
resentatives of one particular species of the genus Human 
Society. If we map out the principal phases in the histories 
of civilizations— their births, growths, breakdowns, and de- 
clines— we can compare their experiences phase by phase; 
and by this method of study we shall perhaps be able to 
sort out their common experiences, which are specific, from 
their unique experiences, which are individual. In this way 
we may be able to work out a morphology of the species 
of society called civilizations. 

If, by the use of these two methods of study, we can 
arrive at a unified vision of history, we shall probably 
find that we need to make very far-going adjustments of 
the perspective in which the histories of divers civilizations 
and peoples appear when looked at through our peculiar 
present-day Western spectacles. 

In setting out to adjust our perspective, we shall be wise, 
I suggest, to proceed simultaneously on two alternative as- 
sumptions. One of these alternatives is that the future of 
mankind, may not, after all, be going to be catastrophic 
and that, even if the Second World War prove not to have 
been the last, we shall survive the rest of this batch of world 
wars as we survived the first two bouts, and shall eventually 
win our way out into calmer waters. The other possibility 
is that these first two world wars may be merely overtures 
to some supreme catastrophe that we are going to bring on 

This second, more unpleasant, alternative has been made 
a very practical possibility by mankind’s unfortunately 
having discovered how to tap atomic energy before we 
have succeeded in abolishing the institution of war. Those 



contradictions and paradoxes in the life of the world in 
our time, which I took as. my starting point, also look like 
symptoms of serious social and spiritual sickness, and their 
existence— which is one of the portentous features in the 
landscape of contemporary history— is another indication 
that we ought to take the more unpleasant of our alterna- 
tives as a serious possibility, and not just as a bad joke. 

Cn either alternative, I suggest that we historians ought 
to concentrate our own attention— and direct the attention 
of our listeners and readers— upon the histories of those 
civilizations and peoples which, in the light of their past 
performances, seem likely, in a unified world, to come to 
the front in the long run in one or other of the alternative 
futures that may be lying in wait for mankind. 


If the future of mankind in a unified world is going to 
be on the whole a happy one, then I would prophesy that 
there is a future in the Old World for the Chinese, and in 
the island of North America for the Canadiens. Whatever 
the future of mankind in North America, I feel pretty con- 
fident that these French-speaking Canadians, at any rate, 
will be there at the end of the story. 

On the assumption that the future of mankind is to be 
very catastrophic, I should have prophesied, even as lately 
as a few years ago, that whatever future we might be going 
to have would lie with the Tibetans and the Eskimos, be- 
cause each of these peoples occupied, till quite lately, an 
unusually sheltered position. ‘Sheltered’ means, of course, 
sheltered from the dangers arising from human folly and 
wickedness, not sheltered from the rigors of the physical 
environment. Mankind has been master of its physical en- 
vironment, sufficiently for practical purposes, since the 



middle palaeolithic age; since that time, man’s only dangers 
—but these have been deadly dangers— have come from 
man himself. But the homes of the Tibetans and the Eski- 
mos are sheltered no longer, because we are on the point 
of managing to fly over the North Pole and over the 
Himalayas, and both Northern Canada and Tibet would 
(I think) be likely to be theatres of a future Russo-Ameri- 
can war. 

If mankind is going to run amok with atom bombs, I 
personally should look to the Negrito Pygmies of Central 
Africa to salvage some fraction of the present heritage of 
mankind. (Their eastern cousins in the Philippines and 
in the Malay Peninsula would probably perish with the 
rest of us, as they both live in what have' now come to be 
dangerously exposed positions.) 

The African Negritos are said by our anthropologists 
to have an unexpectedly pure and lofty conception of the 
nature of God and of God’s relation to man. They might 
be able to give mankind a fresh start; and, though we 
should then have lost the achievements of the last 6000 
to 10,000 years, what are 10,000 years compared to the 
600,000 or a million years for which the human race has 
already been in existence? 

The extreme possibility of catastrophe is that we might 
succeed in exterminating the whole human race, African 
Negritos and all. 

On the evidence of the past history of life on this planet, 
even that is not entirely unlikely. After all, the reign of 
man on the Earth, if we are right in thinking that man es- 
tablished his present ascendency in the middle palaeolithic 
age, is so far only about 100,000 years old, and what is 
that compared to the joo million or 800 million years 
during which life has been in existence on the surface of 

[ 162 ] 


this planet? In the past, other forms of life have enjoyed 
reigns which have lasted for almost inconceivably longer 
periods— and which yet at last have come to an end. There 
was a reign of the giant armored reptiles which may have 
lasted about 80 million years; say from about the year 
130 million to the year 50 million before the present day. 
But the reptiles’ reign came to an end. Long before that 
—perhaps 300 million years ago— there was a reign of giant 
armoured fishes— creatures that had already accomplished 
the tremendous achievement of growing a movable lower 
jaw. But the reign of the fishes came to an end. 

The winged insects are believed to have come into ex- 
istence about 250 million years ago. Perhaps the higher 
winged insects— the social insects that have anticipated man- 
kind in creating an institutional life— are still waiting for 
their reign on Earth to come. If the ants and bees were 
one day to acquire even that glimmer of intellectual un- 
derstanding that man has possessed in his day, and if they 
were then to make their own shot at seeing history in 
perspective, they might see the advent of the mammals, 
and the brief reign of the human mammal, as almost irrele- 
vant episodes, ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’ 

The challenge to us, in our generation, is to see to it 
that this interpretation of history shall not become the 
true one. 

C *<53 ] 




If this were a sermon, not an essay, the inevitable text 
would be a famous line of Horace’s: Naturam expellas 
furca, tamen usque recurret: ‘You may throw Nature out 
with a pitchfork, but she will keep coming back.’ 

The present regime in Russia claims to have made a 
clean cut with Russia’s past— not, perhaps, in all minor ex- 
ternals, but at any rate in most things that matter. And 
the W est has taken it- from the Bolsheviks that they have 
done what they say. We have believed and trembled. Yet 
reflexion suggests that it is not so easy to repudiate one’s 
heritage. When we do try to repudiate the past, it has, 
as Horace knew, a sly way of coming back on us in a 
thinly disguised form. Some familiar examples may bring 
the point home. 

In 1763 it looked as if the British conquest of Canada 
had revolutionized the political map of North America 
by putting an end to the partition of the continent which 
had followed from the competitive colonization of the St. 
Lawrence valley by the French and the Atlantic seaboard. 


Russia’s ryzantine heritage 

by the English; but the appearance of this revolutionary 
change turned out to be illusory- The two dominions that 
had been united in 1763 were sundered again in 1783. It is 
true that, in the once-again divided continent, it was the 
St. Lawrence valley, now, that was British, whereas it 
had been the Atlantic seaboard before. But this transposi- 
tion of the British domain in North America was a minor 
variation compared to the re-emergence, after twenty years 
of unity, of the original division of the continent into two 
politically separate fractions. 

In a similar way, it looked as though the Restoration of 
1660 had revolutionized the religious life of England by 
reuniting an English Protestant Church which had split 
before the close of the sixteenth century into an Episco- 
palian and a Presbyterian faction. Appearances, however, 
were illusory here again; for the sixteenth-century break- 
away from Episcopalianism reasserted itself in the eight- 
eenth century in the emergence of the new Methodist type 
of non-conformity. 

In France, again, Roman Catholic orthodoxy has been 
disappointed, time and again, of the hope that it had suc- 
ceeded in re-establishing religious uniformity once and 
for all by suppressing a heresy. The Albigenses were sup- 
pressed, only to break out again as Huguenots. When the 
Huguenots were suppressed in their turn, they broke out 
again as Jansenists, who were the nearest thing to Calvinists 
that Roman Catholics could be. When the Jansenists were 
quashed they broke out again as Deists; and to-day the 
division of the French into a clerical and an anti-clerical 
faction still reproduces the thirteenth-century division be- 
tween Catholics and Adoptionists (or whatever the doc- 
trine may have been that the Albigenses really held), in 

[ 165 ] 


spite of repeated attempts, during the last seven centuries, 
to dragoon the French people into religious unity. 

In the light of these obvious historical illustrations of 
Horace’s theme, let us try to look into the relation of 
present-day Russia to Russia’s past. 

Marxism wears the appearance of being a new order in 
Russia because, like the new way of life introduced into 
Russia in an earlier chapter by Peter the Great, it came 
from the West. If these fits of Westernization have been 
spontaneous, it might be plausible to present them as 
genuine new departures. But has Russia been Westernizing 
herself voluntarily or under duress? 

On this point, the present writer’s personal beliefs are 
as follows: For nearly a thousand years past, the Russians 
have, as he sees it, been members, not of our Western 
civilization, but of the Byzantine— a sister society, of the 
same Graeco-Roman parentage as ours, but a distinct and 
different civilization from our own, nevertheless. The 
Russian members of this Byzantine family have always put 
up a strong resistance against threats of being overwhelmed 
by our Western world, and they are keeping up this re- 
sistance to-day. In order to save themselves from being 
conquered and forcibly assimilated by the West, they have 
repeatedly been constrained to make themselves masters of 
our Western technology. This tour de force has been 
achieved at least twice over in Russian history: first by 
Peter the Great, and then again by the Bolsheviks. The 
effort has had to be repeated, because Western technology 
has continued to advance. Peter the Great had to master 
the arts of the seventeenth-century Western shipwright 
and drill-sergeant. The Bolsheviks had to get even with 
our Western industrial revolution. And no sooner have 
they done that than the West gets ahead of Russia again 


Russia’s byzantine heritage 

by discovering the ‘know-how’ of the manufacture of the 
atom bomb. 

All this puts the Russians in a dilemma. In order to save 
themselves from being completely Westernized by force, 
they have to Westernize themselves partially, and in this 
they have to take the initiative if they are to make sure of 
both Westernizing in time and of keeping the repugnant 
process within bounds. The fateful question is, of course: 
Can one manage to adopt an alien civilization partially 
without being drawn on, step by step, into adopting it 
as a whole? 

We may feel our way towards an answer to this ques- 
tion by glancing back at the principal chapters in the 
history of Russia’s relations with the West. In the West 
we have a notion that Russia is the aggressor, as indeed 
she has all the appearance of being when looked at through 
Western eyes. We think of her as the devourer of the 
lion’s share in the eighteenth-century partitions of Poland; 
as the oppressor of both Poland and Finland in the nine- 
teenth century; and as the arch-aggressor in the post-war 
world of to-day. To Russian eyes, appearances are just the 
contrary. The Russians see themselves as the perpetual 
victims of aggression from the West, and, on a longer his- 
torical perspective, there is perhaps a greater justification 
than we might suppose for the Russian point of view. A 
detached investigator, if such could be found, might re- 
port that the Russians’ eighteenth-century successes against 
Sweden and Poland were counter-offensives, and that their 
gains in territory in these counter-offensives are less char- 
acteristic of the relations between Russia and the West 
than the Russian losses of territory to the West both be- 
fore and after. 

‘The Varangians,’ who founded the first rudiments of a 
[ 167 ] 


Russian state by seizing command of the navigable inland 
waterways and thereby establishing their domination over 
the primitive Slav populations in the hinterland, seem to 
have been Scandinavian barbarians who had been stirred up 
and set moving— eastward as well as westward— by the 
northward march of Western Christendom under Charle- 
magne. Their descendants in their home country were con- 
verted to Western Christianity and appeared, in their turn, 
over Russia’s western horizon as the latter-day Swedes: 
heathens transformed into heretics without having been 
cured of being aggressors. Then again, in the fourteenth 
century, the best part of Russia’s original domain— almost 
the whole of White Russia and the Ukraine— was shorn 
away from Russian Orthodox Christendom and annexed 
to Western Christendom through being conquered by the 
Lithuanians and the Poles. (The fourteenth-century Polish 
conquests of originally Russian ground in Galicia were not 
recovered by Russia till the last phase of the War of 
1939 - 45 )- 

In the seventeenth century, Polish invaders penetrated 
the hitherto unconquered part of Russia as far as Moscow 
and were driven out only by a supreme effort on the Rus- 
sian side, while the Swedes shut Russia off from the Baltic 
by annexing the whole east coast down to the northern 
limits of the Polish dominions. In 1812 Napoleon repeated 
the Poles’ seventeenth-century exploit; and, after the turn 
of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, blows from the 
West came raining down on Russia thick and fast. The 
Germans, invading her in the years 1915-18, overran the 
Ukraine and reached Transcaucasia. After the collapse of 
the Germans, it was the turn of the British, French, Ameri- 
cans, and Japanese to invade Russia from four different 
quarters in the years 1918-20. And then, in 1941, the Ger- 


Russia’s byzantine heritage 

mans returned to the attack— more formidable and more 
ruthless than ever. It is true that, during the eighteenth 
and nineteenth centuries, Russian armies also marched and 
fought on Western ground, but they came in always as 
allies of one Western power against another in some 
Western family quarrel. In the annals of the centuries-long 
warfare between the two Christendoms, it .would seem to 
be the fact that the Russians have been the victims of ag- 
gression, and the Westerners the aggressors, more often 
than not. 

The Russians have incurred the hostility of the West 
through being obstinate adherents of an alien civilization, 
and, down to the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, this Russian 
‘mark of the beast’ was the Byzantine civilization of Eastern 
Orthodox Christendom. The Russians embraced Eastern 
Orthodox Christianity at the end of the tenth century, and 
it is significant that this was a deliberate choice on their 
part. Alternatively they might have followed the example 
of either their south-eastern neighbours, the Khazars, on 
the Steppes, who had been converted in the eighth century 
to Judaism, or their eastern neighbours the White Bul- 
garians, down the Volga, who had been converted in the 
tenth century to Islam. In spite of these precedents, the 
Russians made their own distinctive choice by adopting 
the Eastern Orthodox Christianity of the Byzantine world; 
and, after the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 
1453 and the extinction of the last remnant of the East 
Roman Empire, the principality of Moscow, which by 
then had become the rallying point of Russian Orthodox 
Christendom against both Muslims and Latins, self-con- 
sciously took over the Byzantine heritage from the Greeks. 

In 1472 the Grand Duke of Moscow, Ivan III, married 
Zoe Palaeologos, a niece of the last Greek wearer, at Con- 

[ 169] 


stantinople, of the East Roman Imperial Crown. In 1547 
Ivan IV (‘the Terrible’) had himself crowned Czar or 
East Roman Emperor; and, though the office was vacant, 
his assumption of it was audacious, considering that, in 
the past, Russian princes had been ecclesiastical subjects 
of a Metropolitan of Kiev or Moscow who had been a 
subordinate of the Oecumenical Patriarch of Constan- 
tinople— a prelate who, in his turn, was a political subject 
of the Greek Emperor at Constantinople, whose style, title, 
and prerogative were now being assumed by the Muscovite 
Grand Duke Ivan. The last and decisive step was taken 
in 1589, when the reigning Oecumenical Patriarch of Con- 
stantinople, now a servant of the Turks, was induced or 
coerced, during a visit to Moscow, to raise his former 
subordinate the Metropolitan of Moscow to the status of 
an independent Patriarch. Though the Greek Oecumenical 
Patriarch has continued, down to this day, to be recognised 
as primus inter pares among the heads of the Orthodox 
churches-which, though united in doctrine and liturgy, 
are independent of each other in government— the Russian 
Orthodox Church, from the moment when its independ- 
ence was conceded to it, became the most important of all 
the Orthodox Churches de facto, since it was then by 
far the strongest in numbers and was also the only one that 
enjoyed the backing of a powerful sovereign state. 

From 1453 onwards Russia was the only Orthodox 
Christian country of any account that was not under Mus- 
lim rule, and the capture of Constantinople by the Turks 
was dramatically avenged by Ivan the Terrible when he 
captured Qazan from the Tatars a century later. This 
was another step in Russia’s assumption of the Byzantine 
heritage, and Russia was not just being Cast for this role by 
the blind working of impersonal historical forces. The Rus- 

[ 00] 

Russia’s byzantine heritage 

sians knew well what they were about: in the sixteenth 
century, the policy was expounded with arresting clarity 
and confidence in a celebrated passage of an open letter 
addressed to the Grand Duke Basil III of Moscow, whose 
reign intervened between those of the third and the fourth 
Ivan, by the monk Theophilus of Pskov: 

The Church of Old Rome fell because of its heresy; 
the gates of the Second Rome, Constantinople, have 
been hewn down by the axes of the infidel Turks; but 
the Church of Moscow, the Church of the New Rome, 
shines brighter than the Sun in the whole Universe. . . 
Two Romes have fallen, but the Third stands fast; a 
fourth there cannot be. 

In thus assuming the Byzantine heritage deliberately and 
self-consciously, the Russians were taking over, among 
other things, the traditional Byzantine attitude towards the 
West; and this has had a profound effect on Russia’s own 
attitude towards the West, not only before the Revolution 
of 1917 but after it. 

The Byzantine attitude towards the West is a simple one, 
and it ought not to be difficult for Westerners to under- 
stand. Indeed, we ought to be able to sympathize with it, 
because it springs from the same extravagantly improbable 
belief that we happen to hold about ourselves. We ‘Franks’ 
(as the Byzantines and the Muslims call us) sincerely be- 
lieve that we are the chosen heirs of Israel, Greece, and 
Rome— the Heirs of the Promise, with whom, in conse- 
quence, the future lies. We have not been shaken out of 
this belief by the recent geological and astronomical dis- 
coveries that have pushed out the bounds of our universe 
so immensely far in time as well as in space. From the 
primal nebula through the protozoon, and from the proto- 

[ 171 ] 


zoon through primitive man, we still trace a divinely ap- 
pointed genealogy which culminates teleologically in our- 
selves. The Byzantines do just the same, except that they 
award themselves the improbable birthright that, on our 
Western scheme, is ours. The Heirs of the Promise, the 
people with the unique future, are not the Franks but 
the Byzantines— so runs the Byzantine version of the myth. 
And this article of faith has, of course, one very practical 
corollary. When Byzantium and the West are at odds, 
Byzantium is always right and the West is always wrong. 

It will be evident that this sense of orthodoxy and sense 
of destiny, which have been taken over by the Russians 
from the Byzantine Greeks, are just as characteristic of the 
present Communist regime in Russia as they were of the 
previous Eastern Orthodox Christian dispensation there. 
Marxism is, no doubt, a Western creed, but it is a Western 
creed which puts the Western civilization ‘on the spot’; 
and it was, therefore, possible for a twentieth-century 
Russian whose father had been a nineteenth-century ‘Slavo- 
phil’ and his grandfather a devout Eastern Orthodox Chris- 
tian to become a devoted Marxian without being required 
to make any reorientation of his inherited attitude towards 
the West. For the Russian Marxian, Russian Slavophil, and 
Russian Orthodox Christian alike, Russia is ‘Holy Russia,’ 
and the Western world of the Borgias and Queen Victoria, 
Smiles’ Self-Help and Tammany Hall, is uniformly hereti- 
cal, corrupt, and decadent. A creed which allows the Rus- 
sian people to preserve this traditional Russian condemna- 
tion of the West intact, while at the same time serving the 
Russian government as an instrument for industrializing 
Russia in order to save her from being conquered by an 
already industrialized West, is one of those providentially 

[ i7 2 ] 

Russia’s byzantine heritage 

convenient gifts of the gods that naturally fall into the lap 
of the Chosen People. 


Let us look a little further into this Byzantine heritage 
of Russia’s which' does not seem to have lost its hold on 
the Marxian Russia of to-day. When we turn back to the 
Greek first chapter of Byzantine history in Asia Minor and 
Constantinople in the early Middle Ages, what are our 
sister society’s salient features? Two stand out above the 
rest: the conviction (mentioned already) that Byzantium 
is always right, and the institution of the totalitarian state. 

The germ of the conviction of being always right first 
sprouted in the souls of the Greeks at a moment when, so 
far from feeling superior to the West, they were at a dis- 
advantage that was intensely humiliating. After having 
made a mess of their political life for centuries, the Greeks 
at last had peace imposed on them by the Romans. For the 
Greeks, the Roman Empire was a necessity of life and, at 
the same time, an intolerable affront to their pride. This 
was, for them, a formidable psychological dilemma. They 
found their way out of it by making the Roman Empire 
a Greek affair. In the age of the Antonines, Greek men 
of letters took possession of the idea of the Roman Empire 
by presenting it as a practical realization of the ideal king- 
dom of Plato’s philosopher king, while Greek men of ac- 
tion gained admission to the Roman public service. In the 
fourth century after Christ, the Roman Emperor Constan- 
tine planted his New Rome at Byzantium, on the site of 
an ancient Greek city. Constantinople was intended by its 
Latin-speaking founder to be as Latin as Rome itself, but 
by the time of Justinian, only two hundred years later, 
Byzantium had become Greek again— though Justinian was 

[ 173 ] 


a zealous champion of the Latin language that was his, as 
well as Constantine’s, mother tongue. In the fifth century, 
the Roman Empire survived in its Greek and semi-Hel- 
Ienized Oriental provinces when it collapsed in the West, 
including Italy itself. At the turn of the sixth and seventh 
centuries, in the time of Pope Gregory the Great, the Latin 
Old Rome was a derelict, neglected outpost of an Empire 
of which the Greek New Rome was now the centre and 
seat of power. 

Down to this day, if you ask a Greek peasant what he 
is, and he forgets for a moment that he was taught at 
school to say ‘Hellene,’ he will tell you that he is ‘Romyos,’ 
meaning a Greek-speaking Eastern Orthodox Christian 
subject of an ideally eternal Roman Empire with its capital 
at Constantinople. The use of the name ‘Hellene’ to mean 
‘Modem Greek’ is an archaistic revival; in popular usage 
since the sixth century of the Christian era, the antithesis 
between ‘Roman’ (now meaning Greek-speaking adherent 
of the Orthodox Christian Church) and ‘Hellene’ (meaning 
pagan) has replaced the classical antithesis between ‘Hel- 
lene’ (meaning civilized man) and ‘Barbarian.’ That may 
look like a revolutionary change, yet nature ‘ will keep 
coming back,’ for the one thing which, for the Greek, is 
of supreme importance has remained constant in spite of 
this change. The Greek is always right. So long as the 
pagan Greek culture is the hall-mark of superiority, the 
Greek glories in being a Hellene. But when the tables are 
turned and Hellenism in its turn is cast out to become bar- 
barism’s bedfellow in the outer darkness, the Greek changes 
his tune and now proclaims himself a subject of the Chris- 
tian Roman Empire. Hellenism may lose caste, so long as 
the Greek does not. 

Having thus adroitly vindicated his title to be the true 

C 174 3 

Russia’s byzantine heritage 

Heir of the Kingdom, whatever kingdom it might be, the 
Greek Orthodox Christian went on to put Latin Christen- 
dom ‘on the spot.’ In the ninth century, the Greek Oecu- 
menical Patriarch of Constantinople, Photius, pointed out 
that the Western Christians had become schismatics. They 
had tampered with the Creed. They had inserted an un- 
authorized filioque. Byzantium is always right, but she had 
a particular reason, at that moment, for putting Western 
Christendom in the wrong. Photius made his damaging 
theological discovery about the Latins during the first 
round of a political contest between Byzantine Christen- 
dom and Western Christendom in which Photius himself 
was a leading combatant. 

This contest, like that between the United States and 
the Soviet Union to-day, was for the allegiance of a politi- 
cal and ideological no-man’s-land lying between the two 
rival powers. In the ninth century the heathen, who, during 
‘the Wandering of the Nations,’ had occupied South-East- 
ern Europe from the gates of Constantinople to the gates of 
Vienna, began to feel attracted by the Christian civilization 
of their neighbours. To which of the two Christendoms 
should they turn for light? To the Greek Orthodox 
Christendom of the Byzantines? Or to the Latin Catholic 
Christendom of the Franks? Prudence suggested approach- 
ing whichever of the two Christian powers was geo- 
graphically the more remote and therefore politically the 
less dangerous; so the Moravian heathen, who were ‘up 
against’ the Franks, turned to Constantinople, while the 
Bulgarian heathen, who were ‘up against’ the Byzantines, 
turned to Rome-as Greece and Turkey to-day, lying, as 
they do, on Russia’s and not on America’s threshold, have 
turned to Washington, not to Moscow. When once these 
overtures had been made and had not been rejected, the 

[ US ] 


competition between the West and Byzantium for the prize 
of South-Eastern Europe had begun, and the stakes were so 
high that the rivalry was almost bound to end in rupture. 
The crisis which Photius had brought to a head was unex- 
pectedly postponed by the irruption of the Hungarians. 
When this fresh horde of heathen established itself astride 
the Danube towards the close of the ninth century, Eastern 
Orthodox Christendom and Catholic Christendom were 
opportunely insulated from one another again. But, upon 
the conversion of the Hungarians to Western Christianity 
at the end of the tenth century, the quarrel between the 
rival Christendoms burst out again and quickly festered 
into the definitive schism of 1054. 

Thereafter, Byzantine pride suffered a terrible series of 
reverses. Frankish Christians from the west and Turkish 
Muslims from the east now fell upon the Byzantine world 
simultaneously. The interior of Russia, around Moscow, 
was the only part of Eastern Orthodox Christendom that 
did not eventually lose its political independence. The 
homelands of the Byzantine civilization in Asia Minor and 
the Balkan Peninsula were completely submerged, and, in 
the last phase of their discomfiture, on the eve of the second 
and final fall of Constantinople in 1453, the only freedom 
of manoeuvre that was left to the Greeks was to choose 
between two odious alien yokes. Faced with this grievous 
choice, the mediaeval Greek Orthodox Christians pas- 
sionately rejected the yoke of their schismatic Western 
fellow Christians and with- open eyes elected, as the lesser 
evil, the yoke of the Muslim Turks. They would ‘rather 
behold in Constantinople the turban of Muhammad than 
the Pope’s tiara or a cardinal’s hat.’ 

The feelings that determined this significant choice are 
on record in works of literature. During the Middle Ages, 


Russia’s byzantine heritage 

as to-day, the antipathy between the two rival heirs of 
Rome was mutual. Read the Lombard Bishop Liutprand’s 
report to the Saxon Emperors Otto I and II of his diplo- 
matic mission, in their service, to the Byzantine Court of 
Constantinople in the year 968. If you were sensitive solely 
to the tone and temper, and momentarily forgot the date, 
you might fancy that the author was an American visitor 
to Moscow in any year since 1917. Read the Byzantine 
Princess Imperial Anna Comnena’s history of the reign of 
her father the Emperor Alexius, who had to cope with 
the First Crusade. You might fancy that the authoress was 
a cultivated twentieth-century Frenchwoman describing 
the invasion of Paris by a wave of Middle-Western Ameri- 
can tourists— at least, that is what you might fancy till you 
lighted on her description of the cross-bow, that deadly 
new weapon of which the Westerners (in spite of being 
always wrong) had inexplicably discovered the ‘know- 
how.’ If only it had been discovered by the Byzantines, 
whose destiny is to be always right! This passage of Anna 
Comnena’s history might be a Russian complaint in 1947 
about America’s monopoly of the atom bomb. 

Why did Byzantine Constantinople come to grief? And 
why, on the other hand, has Byzantine Moscow survived? 
The key to both these historical riddles is the Byzantine 
institution of the totalitarian state. 

Empires like the Roman or Chinese, which bestow 
peace for centuries on once war-ridden worlds, win so 
powerful a hold on the affections and imaginations of their 
subjects that these cannot imagine living without them, 
and, consequently, cannot believe that these supposedly 
indispensable institutions can ever really cease to exist. 
When the Roman Empire perished, neither contemporaries 
nor posterity acknowledged its demise, and, since their 

[ i77 ] 


eyes refused to face the facts, they sought, at the first op- 
portunity, to bring these facts into conformity with their 
fancy by conjuring the Roman Empire back into existence. 
In the eighth century of the Christian era, there were de- 
termined attempts to revive the Roman Empire in both 
East and West. In the West, Charlemagne’s attempt was a 
fortunate failure; but the attempt made by Leo the Syrian 
at Constantinople, two generations earlier, was a fatal 

The crucial consequence of this successful establishment 
of a mediaeval East Roman Empire in the homelands of the 
Byzantine civilization was that the Eastern Orthodox 
Church fell back into subjection to the State. 

In the pagan Graeco-Roman world, religion had been 
part and parcel of secular public life. Christianity, spring- 
ing up without the Roman Empire’s leave, defended its 
freedom at the price of outlawry and persecution. When 
the Imperial Government came to terms with the Church, 
it seems to have expected that Christianity would slip into 
the dependent and subordinate position that an official 
paganism had previously occupied vis-a-vis the Roman 
State; and, in the Greek heart of the Empire, where the 
Empire continued to be a going concern for nearly three 
centuries after the conversion of Constantine, this expec- 
tation was more or less realized— as witness what happened 
to St. John Chrysostom when he fell foul of the Empress 
Eudoxia, and to Pope Vigilius when he incurred the dis- 
pleasure of the Emperor Justinian. Fortunately, however, 
for the Church, it was freed from its official cage by the 
Empire’s collapse. Even at Constantinople, the Oecumenical 
Patriarch Sergius dealt with the Emperor Heraclius on 
equal terms in the supreme crisis of the seventh century, 
and in the West, where the Empire had broken down two 


Russia’s byzantine heritage 

hundred years earlier and was never successfully restored, 
the Church not only recovered its freedom but preserved 
it. In our Western world, for the most part, the Church has 
maintained its independence of the state and has sometimes 
even exercised an ascendency over it. The modern free 
churches in Protestant countries and the mediaeval Catholic 
Church in a not yet divided Western Christendom are, 
alike, in the main line of our Western tradition, while the 
modern established churches in Protestant countries have 
been, on the whole, something exceptional in Western his- 
tory. Moreover, even where the Church has been re-sub- 
jected to the secular power in a Western state, this un- 
Western relation between Church and State has been tem- 
pered by the climate of ecclesiastical independence which 
has been prevalent in Western Christendom on the whole. 
In the Byzantine world, on the other hand, the successful 
re-establishment of the Empire in the eighth century de- 
prived the Eastern Orthodox Church of the freedom that 
she, too, had momentarily regained. She did not re-enter 
the prison house without a struggle. The battle went on 
for about two hundred years, but it ended in the Church’s 
becoming virtually a department of the mediaeval East 
Roman state; and a state that has reduced the Church to 
this position has thereby made itself ‘totalitarian’— if our 
latter-day term ‘totalitarian state’ means a state that has 
established its control over every side of the life of its 

The mediaeval, Byzantine totalitarian state conjured up 
by the successful resuscitation, at Constantinople, of the 
Roman Empire had a disastrous effect on the development 
of the Byzantine civilization. It was an incubus that over- 
shadowed, crushed, and stunted the society that had con- 
jured it up. The rich potentialities of the Byzantine civiliza- 

[ 179 ] 


tion, which the Byzantine state nipped in the Dud, are re- 
vealed in flashes of originality that burst out in regions be- 
yond the range of the East Roman Empire’s effective 
power, or in.centuries subsequent to the Empire’s demise: 
the spiritual genius of the tenth-century Sicilian monk, 
Saint Nilus, who made a new Magna Graecia in Calabria 
out of Christian Greek refugees from his native island, or 
the artistic genius of the sixteenth-century Cretan painter, 
Theotokopoulos, whom the West admires as ‘El Greco.’ 
The ‘peculiar institution’ of the Byzantine society not only 
blighted these brilliant capacities for creation; it brought 
the mediaeval Byzantine civilization itself to the premature 
downfall that has been mentioned above, by making it 
impossible for the Byzantine world to expand without 
precipitating a war to the death between the Greek apostles 
of Byzantine culture and their principal non-Greek prose 

The subjection of the Oecumenical Patriarch of Con- 
stantinople to the East Roman Emperor created an in- 
soluble dilemma when a heathen prince embraced Eastern 
Orthodox Christianity. If the convert became the Oecu- 
menical Patriarch’s ecclesiastical subject he would be recog- 
nizing, by implication, the political sovereignty of the 
East Roman Emperor, which would be an intolerable con- 
sequence for the convert. On the other hand, if he vindi- 
cated his political independence by setting up a tame Patri- 
arch of his own, he would be claiming, by implication, 
to be the East Roman Emperor’s peer, which would be an 
intolerable consequence for the Emperor. This dilemma did 
not worry the Russian convert-prince, Vladimir, and his 
successors, because the remoteness of Russia from Con- 
stantinople made the theoretical political overlordship of 
the East Roman Emperor innocuous there. But it did worry 

[ 180 ] 

Russia’s byzantine heritage 

the princes of Bulgaria, whose dominions lay at the East 
Roman Empire’s European threshold; and, when Bulgaria 
finally opted for Byzantium after a preliminary flirtation 
with Rome, there turned out not to be room for both a 
Greek Orthodox Christian East Roman Empire and a Slav 
Orthodox Christian Bulgaria in the same Byzantine world. 
The result was a Graeco-Bulgarian hundred years’ war 
which ended in the destruction of Bulgaria by the East 
Roman Empire in 1019 and which inflicted such deadly 
wounds on the victor that he succumbed, in his turn, to 
Frankish and Turkish attacks before the eleventh century 
was over. Russia alone in the Byzantine world of the day 
was saved by her remoteness from being engulfed in this 
cataclysm; and thus it was the latest convert to Byzantine 
Christianity that survived to become the Heir of the 
Promise— the destiny which, as the Byzantines believe, is 
not our Western birthright, but theirs. 

Russia’s life, however, has not been an easy one on the 
whole. Though she owed her survival in the early Middle 
Ages to a happy geographical accident, she has had, since 
then, as we have seen, to save herself by her own exertions. 
In the thirteenth century she was attacked on two fronts 
by the Tatars and the Lithuanians, as the Greek homelands 
of the Byzantine civilization had been attacked by the 
Turks and the Crusaders some two hundred years before; 
and, though she eventually got the upper hand, once for 
all, over her adversaries on the east, she is still having to 
run her arduous race against the ever-advancing techno- 
logical ‘know-how’ of the Western world. 

In this long and grim struggle to preserve their inde- 
pendence, the Russians have sought salvation in the politi- 
cal institution that was the bane of the mediaeval Byzantine 
world. They felt that their one hope of survival lay in a 

C tSx 3 


ruthless concentration of political power and worked out 
for themselves a Russian version of the Byzantine totali- 
tarian state. The Grand Duchy of Moscow was the labora- 
tory of this political experiment, and Moscow’s service, 
and reward, was the consolidation, under her rule, of a 
cluster of weak principalities into a single great power. 
This Muscovite political edifice has twice been given a 
new facade— first by Peter the Great and then again by 
Lenin— but the essence of the structure has remained un- 
altered, and the Soviet Union of to-day, like the Grand 
Duchy of Moscow in the fourteenth century, reproduces 
the salient features of the mediaeval East Roman Empire. 

In this Byzantine totalitarian state, the church may be 
Christian or Marxian so long as it submits to being the 
secular government’s tool. The issue between Trotsky, who 
wanted to make the Soviet Union an instrument for fur- 
thering the cause of the Communist world revolution, and 
Stalin, who wanted to make Communism an instrument for 
furthering the interests of the Soviet Union, is the old issue 
on which battle was once joined between Saint John 
Chrysostom and the Empress Eudoxia and between Theo- 
dore of Studium and the Emperor Constantine VI. In the 
modern, as in the mediaeval, Byzantine world the victory 
has fallen to the champion of the secular power— in con- 
sistent contrast to the course of history in the West, where 
it was the ecclesiastical power that won the day in the 
trials of strength between Gregory VII and Henry IV and 
between Innocent IV and Frederick II. 

The Byzantine institution of the totalitarian state has 
not so far had the same fatal consequences for Russian 
Orthodox Christendom that it had in the homelands of the 
Byzantine civilization when it precipitated a war to the 
death between the mediaeval Greeks and Bulgars. But we 


Russia’s byzantine heritage 

do not know what effect this political heirloom in Russia’s 
Byzantine heritage is going to have on Russia’s fortunes 
now that she has to make the momentous choice between 
taking her place in a Western world or holding aloof and 
trying to build up an anti-Western counter- world of her 
own. We may guess that Russia’s ultimate decision will be 
deeply influenced by the sense of orthodoxy and sense 
of destiny which she has also inherited from her Byzantine 
past. Under the Hammer and Sickle, as under the Cross, 
Russia is still ‘Holy Russia’ and Moscow still ‘The Third 
Rome.’ T amen usque recurret. 




In the past, Islam and our Western society have acted and 
reacted upon one another several times in succession, in 
different situations and in alternating roles. 

The first encounter between them occurred when the 
Western society was in its infancy and when Islam was 
the distinctive religion of the Arabs in their heroic age. 
The Arabs had just conquered and reunited the domains 
of the ancient civilizations of the Middle East and they 
were attempting to enlarge this empire into a world state. 
In that first encounter, the Muslims overran nearly half the 
original domain of the Western society and only just failed 
to make themselves masters of the whole. As it was, they 
took and held North-West Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, 
and Gallic ‘Gothia’ (the coast of Languedoc between the 
Pyrenees and the mouth of the Rhone) ; and a century and 
a half later, when our nascent Western civilization suffered 
a relapse after the breakdown of the Carolingian Empire, 
the Muslims took the offensive again from an African base 
of operations and this time only just failed to make them- 
selves masters of Italy. Thereafter, when the Western 
civilization had surmounted the danger of premature ex- 



tinction and had entered upon a vigorous growth, while 
the would-be Islamic world state was declining towards its 
fall, the tables were turned. The Westerners took the of- 
fensive along a front which extended irom end to end of 
the Mediterranean, from the Iberian Peninsula through 
Sicily to the Syrian ‘Terre d’Outre Mer’; and Islam, at- 
tacked simultaneously by the Crusaders on one side and 
by the Central Asian Nomads on the other, was driven 
to bay, as Christendom had been driven some centuries 
earlier when it had been compelled to face simultaneous 
attacks on two fronts from the North European barbarians 
and from the Arabs. 

In that life-and-death struggle, Islam, like Christendom 
before it, triumphantly survived. The Central Asian in- 
vaders were converted; the Frankish invaders were ex- 
pelled; and, in territorial terms, the only enduring result 
of the Crusades was the incorporation in the Western world 
of the two outlying Islamic territories of Sicily and Anda- 
lusia. Of course, the enduring economic and cultural results 
of the Crusaders’ temporary political acquisitions from 
Islam were far more important. Economically and cul- 
turally, conquered Islam took her savage conquerors cap- 
tive and introduced the arts of civilization into the rustic 
life of Latin Christendom. In certain fields of activity, such 
as architecture, this Islamic influence pervaded the entire 
Western world in its so-called ‘mediaeval’ age; and in the 
two permanently conquered territories of Sicily and An- 
dalusia the Islamic influence upon the local Western ‘suc- 
cessor-states’ of the Arab Empire was naturally still more 
wide and deep. Yet this was not the last act in the play; 
for the attempt made by the mediaeval West to exterminate 
Islam failed as signally as the Arab empire-builders’ at- 
tempt to capture the cradle of a nascent Western civiliza- 



tion had failed before; and, once more, a counter-attack 
was provoked by the unsuccessful offensive. 

This time Islam was represented by the Ottoman de- 
scendants of the converted Central Asian Nomads, who 
conquered and reunited the domain of Orthodox Christen- 
dom and then attempted to extend this empire into a world 
state on the Arab and Roman pattern. After the final 
failure of the Crusades, Western Christendom stood on the 
defensive against this Ottoman attack during the late 
mediaeval and early modern ages of Western history— and 
this not only on the old maritime front in the Mediter- 
ranean but on a new continental front in the Danube 
Basin. These defensive tactics, however, were not so much 
a confession of weakness as a masterly piece of half-un- 
conscious strategy on the grand scale; for the Westerners 
managed to bring the Ottoman offensive to a halt without 
employing more than a small part of their energies; and, 
whale half the energies of Islam were being absorbed in 
this local border warfare, the Westerners were putting 
forth their strength to make themselves masters of the 
ocean and thereby potential masters of the world. Thus 
they not only anticipated the Muslims in the discovery and 
occupation of America; they also entered into the Muslims’ 
prospective heritage in Indonesia, India, and tropical Africa; 
and finally, having encircled the Islamic world and cast 
their net about it, they proceeded to attack their old ad- 
versary in his native lair. 

This concentric attack of the modern West upon the 
Islamic world has inaugurated the present encounter be- 
tween the two civilizations. It will be seen that this is part 
of a still larger and more ambitious movement, in which 
the Western civilization is aiming at nothing less than the 
incorporation of all mankind in a single great society, and 



the control of everything in the earth, air, and sea which 
mankind can turn to account by means of modern Western 
technique. What the West is doing now to Islam, it is 
doing simultaneously to the other surviving civilizations 
—the Orthodox Christian, the Hindu, and the Far Eastern 
world— and to the surviving primitive societies, which are 
now at bay even iq their last strongholds in tropical Africa. 
Thus the contemporary encounter between Islam and the 
West is not only more active and intimate than any phase 
of their contact in the past; it is also distinctive in being an 
incident in an attempt by Western man to ‘Westernize’ 
the world— an enterprise which will possibly rank as the 
most momentous, and almost certainly as the most inter- 
esting, feature in the history even of a generation that has 
lived through two world wars. 

Thus Islam is once more facing the West with her back 
to the wall; but this time the odds are more heavily against 
her than they were even at the most critical moment of 
the Crusades, for the modern West is superior to her not 
only in arms but also in the technique of economic life, 
on which military science ultimately depends, and above 
all in spiritual culture— the inward force which alone creates 
and sustains the outward manifestations of what is called 

Whenever one civilized society finds itself in this danger- 
ous situation vis-a-vis another, there are two alternative 
ways open to it of responding to the challenge; and we 
can see obvious examples of both these types of response 
in the reaction of Islam to Western pressure to-day. It is 
legitimate as well as convenient to apply to the present 
situation certain terms which were coined when a similar 
situation once arose in the encounter between the ancient 
civilizations of Greece and Syria. Under the impact of 



Hellenism during the centuries immediately before and 
after the beginning of the Christian era, the Jews (and, 
we might add, the Iranians and the Egyptians) split into 
two parties. Some became ‘Zealots’ and others ‘Herodians.’ 

The ‘Zealot’ is the man who takes refuge from the un- 
known in the familiar; and when he joins battle with a 
stranger who practises superior tactics and employs for- 
midable newfangled weapons, and finds himself getting the 
worst of the encounter, he responds by practising his own 
traditional art of war with abnormally scrupulous exacti- 
tude. ‘Zealot-ism,’ in fact, may be described as archaism 
evoked by foreign, pressure; and its most conspicuous rep- 
resentatives in the contemporary Islamic world are ‘puri- 
tans’ like the North African Sanusis and the Central 
Arabian Wahhabis. 

The first point to notice about these Islamic ‘Zealots’ 
is that their strongholds lie in sterile and sparsely populated 
regions which are remote from the main international thor- 
oughfares of the modem world and which have been un- 
attractive to Western enterprise until the recent dawn of 
the oil age. The exception which proves the rule up to 
date is the Mahdist Movement which dominated the East- 
ern Sudan from 1883 to 1898. The Sudanese Mahdi, 
Muhammad Ahmad, established himself astride the water- 
way of the Upper Nile after Western enterprise had taken 
‘the opening up of Africa’ in hand. In this awkward geo- 
graphical position the Sudanese Mahdi’s Khalifah collided 
with a Western power and— pitting archaic weapons against 
modem ones— was utterly overthrown. We may compare 
the Mahdi’s career with the ephemeral triumph of the Mac- 
cabees during the brief relaxation of pressure from Hel- 
lenism which the Jews enjoyed after the Romans had 
overthrown the Seleucid power and before they had taken 



its place; and we may infer that, as the Romans overthrew 
the Jewish ‘Zealots’ in the first and second centuries of the 
Christian era, so some great power of the Western world of 
to-day— let us say, the United States— could overthrow the 
Wahhabis now any time it chose if the Wahhabis’ ‘Zealot- 
ism’ became a sufficient nuisance to make the trouble of 
suppressing it seem worth while. Suppose, for instance, that 
the Sa‘udi Arabian government, under pressure from its 
fanatical henchmen, were to demand exorbitant terms for 
oil concessions, or were to prohibit altogether the exploita- 
tion of its oil resources. The recent discovery of this hidden 
wealth beneath her arid soil is decidedly a menace to the 
independence of Arabia; for the West has now learnt how 
to conquer the desert by bringing into play its own tech- 
nical inventions— railroads and armoured cars, tractors that 
can crawl like centipedes over sand-dunes, and aeroplanes 
that can skim above them like vultures. Indeed, in the 
Moroccan Rif and Adas and on the north-west frontier of 
India during the inter- war years, the West demonstrated 
its ability to subdue a type of Islamic ‘Zealot’ who is much 
more formidable to deal with than the denizen of the desert. 
In these mountain fastnesses the French and British have 
encountered and defeated a highlander who has obtained 
possession of modern Western small arms and has learnt to 
a nicety how to use them on his own ground to the best 

But of course the ‘Zealot’ armed with a smokeless quick- 
firing rifle is no longer the ‘Zealot’ pure and undefiled, for, 
in as much as he has adopted the Westerner’s weapon, he 
has set foot upon unhallowed ground. No doubt if ever 
he thinks about it— and that is perhaps seldom, for the 
‘Zealot’s’ behaviour is essentially irrational and instinctive 
-he says in his heart that he will go thus far and no farther; 

[ 189 ] 


that, having adopted just enough of the Westerner’s mili- 
tary technique to keep any aggressive Western power at 
arm’s length, he will consecrate the liberty thus preserved 
to the ‘keeping of the law’ in every other respect and 
will thereby continue to win God’s blessing for himself 
and for his offspring. 

This state of mind may be illustrated by a conversation 
which took place in the nineteen-twenties between the 
Zaydi Imam Yahya of San‘a and a British envoy whose 
mission was to persuade the Imam to restore peacefully a 
portion of the British Aden Protectorate which he had 
occupied during the general War of 1914-18 and had re- 
fused to evacuate thereafter, notwithstanding the defeat of 
his Ottoman overlords. In a final interview wtih the Imam, 
after it had become apparent that the mission would not 
attain its object, the British envoy, wishing to give the 
conversation another turn, complimented the Imam upon 
the soldierly appearance of his new-model army. Seeing 
that the Imam took the compliment in good part, he 
went on: 

‘And I suppose you will be adopting other Western in- 
stitutions as well?’ 

‘I think not,’ said the Imam with a smile. 

‘Oh, really? That interests me. And may I venture to ask 
your reasons?’ 

‘Well, I don’t think I should like other Western insti- 
tutions,’ said the Imam. 

‘Indeed? And what institutions, for example?’ 

‘Well, there are parliaments,’ said the Imam. ‘I like to 
be the Government myself. I might find a parliament tire- 

‘Why, as for that,’ said the Englishman, ‘I can assure 
you that responsible parliamentary representative govem- 

[ i9°] 


ment is not an indispensable part of the apparatus of West- 
em civilization. Look at Italy. She has given that up, and 
she is one of the great Western powers.’ 

‘Well, then there is alcohol,’ said the Imam, ‘I don’t 
want to see that introduced into my country, where at 
present it is happily almost unknown.’ 

‘Very natural,’ said the Englishman; ‘but, if it comes to 
that, I can assure you that alcohol is not an indispensable 
adjunct of Western civilization either. Look at America. 
She has given up that, and she too is one of the great 
Western powers.’ 

‘Well, anyhow,’ said the Imam, with another smile which 
seemed to intimate that the conversation was at an end, 
‘I don’t like parliaments and alcohol and that kind of 

The Englishman could not make out whether there was 
any suggestion of humour in the parting smile with which 
the last five words were uttered; but, however that might 
be, those words went to the heart of the matter and showed 
that the inquiry about possible further Western innova- 
tions at San‘a had been more pertinent than the Imam 
might have cared to admit. Those words indicated, in fact, 
that the Imam, viewing Western civilization from a great 
way off, saw it, in that distant perspective, as something 
one and indivisible and recognized certain features of it, 
which to a Westerner’s eye would appear to have nothing 
whatever to do with one another, as being organically re- 
lated parts of that indivisible whole. Thus, on his own tacit 
admission, the Imam, in adopting the rudiments of the 
Western military technique, had introduced into the life 
of his people the thin end of a, wedge which in time would 
inexorably cleave their close-compacted traditional Islamic 
civilization asunder. He had started a cultural revolution 

[ I 9 I 1 


which would leave the Yamanites, in the end, with no al- 
ternative but to cover their nakedness with a complete 
ready-made outfit of Western clothes. If the Imam had met 
his Hindu contemporary Mr. Gandhi, that is what he would 
have been told, and such a prophecy would have been sup- 
ported by what had happened already to other Islamic 
peoples who had exposed themselves to the insidious process 
of ‘Westernization’ several generations earlier. 

This, again, may be illustrated by a passage from a re- 
port on the state of Egypt in 1839 which was prepared for 
Lord Palmerston by Dr. John Bowring on the eve of one 
of the perpetual crises in ‘the Eastern question’ of Western 
diplomacy and towards the close of the career of Mehmed 
‘All, an Ottoman statesman who, by that time, had been 
governing Egypt and systematically ‘Westernizing’ the life 
of the inhabitants of Egypt, for thirty-five years. In the 
course of this report, Dr. Bowring records the at first sight 
extraordinary fact that the only maternity hospital for 
Muslim women which then existed in Egypt was to be 
found within the bounds of Mehmed ‘All’s naval arsenal 
at Alexandria, and he proceeds to unravel the cause. 
Mehmed ‘All wanted to play an independent part in in- 
ternational affairs. The first requisite for this was an effec- 
tive army and navy. An effective navy meant a navy built 
on the Western model of the day. The Western technique 
of naval architecture could only be practised and imparted 
by experts imported from Western countries; but such ex- 
perts were unwilling to take service with the Pasha of 
Egypt, even on generous financial terms, unless they were 
assured of adequate provision for the welfare of their 
families and their subordinates according to the standards 
to which they were accustomed in their Western homes. 
One fundamental condition of welfare, as they understood 

[ i9 2 ] 


it, was medical attendance by trained Western practi- 
tioners. Accordingly, no hospital, no arsenal; and there- 
fore a hospital with a Western staff was attached to the 
arsenal from the beginning. The Western colony at the 
arsenal, however, was small in numbers; the hospital staff 
were consumed by that devouring energy with which the 
Franks had been cursed by God; the natives of Egypt were 
legion; and maternity cases are the commonest of all in 
the ordinary practice of medicine. The process by which 
a maternity hospital for Egyptian women grew up within 
the precincts of a naval arsenal managed by Western ex- 
perts is thus made clear. 

This brings us to a consideration of the alternative re- 
sponse to the challenge of pressure from an alien civiliza- 
tion; for, if the Imam Yahya of San‘a may stand for a 
representative of ‘Zealotism’ in modern Islam (at least, of 
a ‘Zealotism’ tempered by a belief in keeping his powder 
dry), Mehmed ‘AH was a representative of ‘Herodianism’ 
whose genius entitles him to rank with the eponymous 
hero of the sect. Mehmed ‘All was not actually the first 
‘Herodian’ to arise in Islam. He was, however, the first 
to take the ‘Herodian’ course with impunity, after it had 
been the death of the one Muslim statesman who had an- 
ticipated him: the unfortunate Ottoman Sultan Selim III. 
Mehmed ‘All was also the first to pursue the ‘Herodian’ 
course steadily with substantial success— in contrast to the 
chequered career of his contemporary and suzerain at Con- 
stantinople, Sultan Mahmud II. 

The ‘Herodian’ is the man who acts on the principle that 
the most effective way to guard against the danger of the 
unknown is to master its secret; and, when he finds himself 
in the predicament of being confronted by a more highly 
skilled and better armed opponent, he responds by discard- 

[ 193 1 


ing his traditional art of war and learning to fight his enemy 
with the enemy’s own tactics and own weapons. If ‘Zealot- 
ism’ is a form of archaism evoked by foreign pressure, 
‘Herodianism’ is a form of cosmopolitanism evoked by the 
self-same external agency; and it is no accident that, 
whereas the strongholds of modem Islamic ‘Zealotism’ 
have lain in the inhospitable steppes and oases of Najd 
and the Sahara, modern Islamic ‘Herodianism’— which was 
generated by the same forces at about the same time, rather 
more than a century and a half ago— has been focused, 
since the days of Selim III and Mehmed ‘All, at Constanti- 
nople and Cairo. Geographically, Constantinople and Cairo 
represent the opposite extreme, in the domain of modem 
Islam, to the Wahhabis’ capital at Riyadh on the steppes 
of the Najd and to the Sanugis’ stronghold at Kufara. The 
oases that have been the fastnesses of Islamic ‘Zealotism’ 
are conspicuously inaccessible; the cities that have been the 
nurseries of Islamic ‘Herodianism’ lie on, or close to, the 
great natural international thoroughfares of the Black Sea 
Straits and the Isthmus of Suez; and for this reason, as well 
as on account of the strategic importance and economic 
wealth of the two countries of which they have been the 
respective capitals, Cairo and Constantinople have exerted 
the strongest attraction upon Western enterprise of all 
kinds, ever since the modern West began to draw its net 
close round the citadel of Islam. 

It is self-evident that ‘Herodianism’ is by far the more 
effective of the two alternative responses which may be 
evoked in a society that has been thrown on the defensive 
by the impact of an alien force in superior strength. The 
‘Zealot’ tries to take cover in the past, like an ostrich bury- 
ing its head in the sand to hide from its pursuers; the 
‘Herodian’ courageously faces the present and explores the 

[ i94] 


tuture. The ‘Zealot’ acts on instinct, the ‘Herodian’ by rea- 
son. In fact, the ‘Herodian’ has to make a combined effort of 
intellect and will in order to overcome the ‘Zealot’ impulse, 
which is the normal first spontaneous reaction of human 
nature to the challenge confronting ‘Zealot’ and ‘Herodian’ 
alike. To have turned ‘Herodian’ is in itself a mark of 
character (though not necessarily of an amiable character) ; 
and it is noteworthy that the Japanese, who, of all the non- 
Western peoples that the modem West has challenged, 
have been perhaps the least unsuccessful exponents of 
‘Herodianism’ in the world so far, were the most effec- 
tive exponents of ‘Zealotism’ previously, from the sixteen- 
thirties to the eighteen-sixties. Being people of strong 
character, the Japanese made the best that could be made 
out of the ‘Zealot’s’ response; and for the same reason, 
when the hard facts ultimately convinced them that a 
persistence in this response would lead them into disaster, 
they deliberately veered about and proceeded to sail their 
ship on the ‘Herodian’ tack. 

Nevertheless, ‘Herodianism,’ though it is an incompa- 
rably more effective response than ‘Zealotism’ to the inex- 
orable ‘Western question’ that confronts the whole con- 
temporary world, does not really offer a solution. For one 
thing, it is a dangerous game; for, to vary our metaphor, 
it is a form of swapping horses while crossing a stream, 
and the rider who fails to find his seat in the new saddle 
is swept off by the current to a death as certain as that 
which awaits the ‘Zealot’ when, with spear and shield, he 
charges a machine-gun. The crossing is perilous, and many 
there be that perish by the way. In Egypt and Turkey, for 
example— the two countries which have served the Islamic 
pioneers of ‘Herodianism’ as the fields for their experiment 
—the epigoni proved unequal to the extraordinarily diffi- 

[ 195 ] 


cult task which the ‘elder statesmen’ had bequeathed to 
them. The consequence was that in both countries the 
‘Herodian’ movement fell on evil days less than a hundred 
years after its initiation, that is to say, in the earlier years 
of the last quarter of the nineteenth century; and the stunt- 
ing and retarding effect of this set-back is still painfully 
visible, in different forms, in the life of both countries. 

Two still more serious, because inherent, weaknesses of 
‘Herodianism’ may be discerned if we turn our attention 
to Turkey as she is to-day, when her leaders, after over- 
coming the Hamidian set-back by a heroic tour de force , 
have carried ‘Herodianism’ to its logical conclusion in a 
revolution which, for ruthless thoroughness, puts even the 
two classical Japanese revolutions of the seventh and the 
nineteenth centuries into the shade. Here, in Turkey, is a 
revolution which, instead of confining itself to a single 
plane, like our successive economic and political and aes- 
thetic and religious revolutions in the West, has taken place 
on all these planes simultaneously and has thereby con- 
vulsed the whole life of the Turkish people from the 
heights to the depths of social experience and activity. 

The Turks have not only changed their constitution 
(a relatively simple business, at least in respect of consti- 
tutional forms), but this unfledged Turkish Republic has 
deposed the Defender of the Islamic Faith and abolished 
his office, the Caliphate; disendowed the Islamic Church 
and dissolved the monasteries; removed the veil from 
women’s faces, with a repudiation of all that the veil im- 
plied; compelled the male sex to confound themselves with 
unbelievers by wearing hats with brims which make it 
impossible for the wearer to perform the complete tradi- 
tional Islamic prayer-drill by touching the floor of the 
mosque with his forehead; made a clean sweep of the 

[ i9 6 ] 


Islamic law by translating the Swiss civil code into Turkish 
verbatim and the Italian criminal code with adaptations, 
and then bringing both codes into force by a vote of the 
National Assembly; and exchanged the Arabic script for 
the Latin: a change which could not be carried through 
without jettisoning the greater part of the old Ottoman 
literary heritage. Most noteworthy and most audacious 
change of all, these ‘Herodian’ revolutionaries in Turkey 
have placed before their people a new social ideal— inspiring 
them to set their hearts no longer, as before, on being hus- 
bandmen and warriors and rulers of men, but on going into 
commerce and industry and proving that, when they try, 
they can hold their own against the Westerner himself, 
as well as against the Westernized Greek, Armenian, or 
Jew, in activities in which they have formerly disdained 
to compete because they have traditionally regarded them 
as despicable. 

This ‘Herodian’ revolution in Turkey has been carried 
through with such spirit, under such serious handicaps and 
against such heavy odds, that any generous-minded ob- 
server will make allowances for its blunders and even for 
its crimes and will wish it success in its formidable task. 
Tantus labor non sit cassus — and it would be particularly 
ungracious in a Western observer to cavil or scoff; for, 
after all, these Turkish ‘Herodians’ have been trying to 
turn their people and their country into something which, 
since Islam and the West first met, we have always de- 
nounced them for not being by nature: they have been 
trying, thus late in the day, to produce replicas, in Turkey, 
of a Western nation and a Western state. Yet, as soon as we 
have clearly realized the goal, we cannot help wondering 
whether all this labour and travail that has been spent on 
striving to reach it has been really worth while. 

[ 1 97 ] 


Certainly we did not like the outrageous old-fashioned 
Turkish ‘Zealot’ who flouted us in the posture of the 
Pharisee thanking God daily that he was not as other men 
were. So long as he prided himself on being ‘a peculiar 
people’ we set ourselves to humble his pride by making his 
peculiarity odious; and so we called him ‘the Unspeakable 
Turk’ until we pierced his psychological armour and 
goaded him into that ‘Herodian’ revolution which he has 
now consummated under our eyes. Yet now that, under 
the goad of our censure, he has changed his tune and has. 
searched out every means of making himself indistinguish- 
able from the nations around him, we are embarrassed and 
even inclined to be indignant— as Samuel was when the 
Israelites confessed the vulgarity of their motive for de- 
siring a king. 

In the circumstances, this new complaint of ours against 
the Turk is ungracious, to say the least. The victim of 
our censure might retort that, whatever he does, he cannot 
do right in our eyes, and he might quote against us, from 
our own Scriptures: ‘We have piped unto you and ye have 
not danced; we have mourned to you and ye have not 
wept.’ Yet it does not follow that, because our criticism 
is ungracious, it is also merely captious or altogether beside 
the mark. For what, after all, will be added to the heritage 
of civilization if this labour proves to have been not in vain 
and if the aim of these thoroughgoing Turkish ‘Herodians’ 
is achieved in the fullest possible measure? 

It is at this point that the two inherent weaknesses of 
‘Herodianism’ reveal themselves. The first of them is that 
‘Herodianism’ is, ex hypothesi, mimetic and not creative, 
so that, even if it succeeds, it is apt simply to enlarge the 
quantity of the machine-made products of the imitated 
society instead of releasing new creative energies in human 

[ 198 ] 


souls. The second weakness is that this uninspiring success, 
which is the best that ‘Herodianism’ has to offer, can bring 
salvation— even mere salvation in this world— only to a 
small minority of any community which takes the ‘He- 
rodian’ path. The majority cannot look forward even to 
becoming passive members of the imitated civilization’s 
ruling class. Their destiny is to swell the ranks of the 
imitated civilization’s proletariat. Mussolini once acutely 
remarked that there are proletarian nations as well as prole- 
tarian classes and individuals; and this is evidently the cate- 
gory into which the non- Western peoples of the contem- 
porary world are likely to enter, even if, by a tour de 
force of ‘Herodianism,’ they succeed outwardly in trans- 
forming their countries into sovereign independent national 
states on the Western pattern and become associated with 
their Western sisters as nominally free and equal members 
of an all-embracing international society. 

Thus, in considering the subject of this paper— the in- 
fluence which the present encounter between Islam and 
the West may be expected to have on the future of man- 
kind— we may ignore both the Islamic ‘Zealot’ and the 
Islamic ‘Herodian’ in so far as they carry their respective 
reactions through to such measure of success as is open 
to them; for their utmost possible success is the negative 
achievement of material survival. The rare ‘Zealot’ who 
escapes extermination becomes the fossil of a civilization 
which is extinct as a living force; the rather less infrequent 
‘Herodian’ who escapes submergence becomes a mimic 
of the living civilization to which he assimilates himself. 
Neither the one nor the other is in a position to make any 
creative contribution to this living civilization’s further 

We may note incidentally that, in the modern encounter 
[ 199 ] 


of Islam with the West, the ‘Herodian’ and ‘Zealot’ reac- 
tions have several times actually collided with each other 
and to some extent cancelled each other out. The first use 
which Mehmed ‘All made of his new ‘Westernized’ army 
was to attack the Wahhabis and quell the first outburst of 
their zeal. Two generations later, it was the uprising of the 
Mahdi against the Egyptian regime in the Eastern Sudan 
that gave the coup de grace to the first ‘Herodiaft’ effort 
to make Egypt into a power capable of standing politically 
on her own feet ‘under the strenuous conditions of the 
modern world’; for it was this that confirmed the British 
military occupation of 1882, with all the political conse- 
quences which have flowed therefrom since then. 

Again, in our time, the decision of the late king of 
Afghanistan to break with a tradition of ‘Zealotism’ which 
had previously been the keynote of Afghan policy since 
the first Anglo-Afghan War of 1838-42 has probably de- 
cided the fate of the ‘Zealot’ tribesmen along the north-west 
frontier of India. For though Ring Amanallah’s impatience 
soon cost him his throne and evoked a ‘Zealot’ reaction 
among his former subjects, it is fairly safe to prophesy that 
his successors will travel— more surely because more slowly 
—along the same ‘Herodian’ path. And the progress of He- 
rodianism in Afghanistan spells the tribesmen’s doom. So 
long as these tribesmen had behind them an Afghanistan 
which cultivated as a policy that reaction towards the 
pressure of the West which the tribesmen themselves had 
adopted by instinct, they themselves could continue to 
take the ‘Zealot’s’ course with impunity. Now that they 
are caught between two fires— on the one side from India 
as before, and on the other side from an Afghanistan which 
has taken the first steps along the ‘Herodian’ path— the 
tribesmen seem likely sooner or later to be confronted 

[ 200] 


with a choice between conformity and extermination. It 
may be noted, in passing, that the ‘Herodian,’ when he does 
collide with the ‘Zealot’ of his own household, is apt to 
deal with him much more ruthlessly than the Westerner 
would have the heart to do. The Westerner chastises the 
Islamic ‘Zealot’ with whips; the Islamic ‘Herodian’ chastises 
him with scorpions. The ‘frightfulness’ with which King 
Amanallah suppressed his Pathan rebellion in 1924, and 
President Mustafa Kemal Atatiirk his Kurdish rebellion 
in 1925, stands out in striking contrast to the more humane 
methods by which, at that very time, other recalcitrant 
Kurds were being brought to heel in what was then the 
British mandated territory of ‘Iraq and other Pathans in 
the north-west frontier province of what was then British 

To what conclusion does our investigation lead us? Are 
we to conclude that, because, for our purpose, both the 
successful Islamic ‘Herodian’ and the successful Islamic 
‘Zealot’ are to be ignored, the present encounter between 
Islam and the West will have on the future of mankind 
no influence whatsoever? By no means; for, in dismissing 
from consideration the successful ‘Herodian’ and ‘Zealot,’ 
we have only disposed of a small minority of the members 
of the Islamic society. The destiny of the majority, it has 
already been suggested above, is neither to be exterminated 
nor to be fossilized nor to be assimilated, but to be sub- 
merged by being enrolled in that vast, cosmopolitan, 
ubiquitous proletariat which is one of the most portentous 
by-products of the ‘Westernization’ of the world. 

At first sight it might appear that, in thus envisaging 
the future of the majority of Muslims in a ‘Westernized’ 
world, we had completed the answer to our question, and 
this in the same sense as before. If we convict the ‘Herodian’ 

[ 201 ] 


Muslim and the ‘Zealot’ Muslim of cultural sterility, must 
we not convict the ‘proletarian’ Muslim of the same fatal 
defect a fortiori ? Indeed, is there any one who would dis- 
sent from that verdict, on first thoughts? We can imagine 
arch-‘Herodians’ like the late President Mustafa Kemal 
Atatiirk and arch-‘ZeaIots’ like the Grand Sanusi concur- 
ring with enlightened Western colonial administrators like 
the late Lord Cromer or General Lyautey to exclaim with 
one accord: ‘Can any creative contribution to the civiliza- 
tion of the future be expected from the Egyptian fallah or 
the Constantinopolitan hammal?’ Just so, in the early years 
of the Christian era, when Syria was feeling the pressure 
of Greece, Herod Antipas and Gamaliel and those zealous 
Theudases and Judases who, in Gamaliel’s memory, had 
perished by the sword, would almost certainly have con- 
curred with a Greek poet in partibus Orientalium like 
Meleager of Gadara, or a Roman provincial governor like 
Gallio, in asking, in the same satirical tone: ‘Can any good 
thing come out of Nazareth?’ Now when the question is 
put in that historic form, we have no doubt as to the 
answer, because the Greek and Syrian civilizations have 
both run their course and the story of their relations is 
known to us from beginning to end. The answer is so 
familiar now that it requires a certain effort of the imagina- 
tion for us to realize how surprising and even shocking 
this particular verdict of history would have been to in- 
telligent Greeks and Romans and Idumaeans and Jews of 
the generation in which the question was originally asked. 
For although, from their profoundly different standpoints, 
they might have agreed in hardly anything else, they would 
almost certainly have agreed in answering that particular 
question with an emphatic and contemptuous ‘No.’ 

In the light of history, we perceive that their answer 
[ 202 ] 


would have been ludicrously wrong if we take as our cri- 
terion of goodness the manifestation of creative power. 
In that pammixia which arose from the intrusion of the 
Greek civilization upon the civilizations of Syria and Iran 
and Egypt and Babylonia and India, the proverbial sterility 
of the hybrid seems to have descended upon the dominant 
class of the Hellenic society as well as upon those Orientals 
who followed out to the end the alternative ‘Herodian’ 
and ‘Zealot’ courses. The one sphere in which this Graeco- 
Oriental cosmopolitan society was undoubtedly exempted 
from that course was the underworld of the Oriental 
proletariat, of which Nazareth was one type and symbol; 
and from this underworld, under these apparently adverse 
conditions, there came forth some of the mightiest creations 
hitherto achieved by the spirit of man: a cluster of higher 
religions. Their sound has gone forth into all lands, and it is 
stiil echoing in our ears. Their names are names of power: 
Christianity and Mithraism and Manichaeism; the worship 
of the Mother and her dying and rising husband-son under 
the alternative names of Cybele-Isis and Attis-Osiris; the 
worship of the heavenly bodies; and the Mahayana School 
of Buddhism, which— changing, as it travelled, from a 
philosophy into a religion under Iranian and Syrian influ- 
ence-irradiated the Far East with Indian thought em- 
bodied in a. new art of Greek inspiration. If these prece- 
dents have any significance for us— and they are the only 
beams of light which we can bring to bear upon the dark- 
ness that shrouds our own future— they portend that Islam, 
in entering into the proletarian underworld of our latter- 
day Western civilization, may eventually compete with 
India and the Far East and Russia for the prize of influenc- 
ing the future in ways that may pass our understanding. 

Indeed, under the impact of the West, the great deeps 



of Islam are already stirring, and even in these early days 
we can discern certain spiritual movements which might 
conceivably become the embryos of new higher religions. 
The Baha’i and AhmadI movements, which, from Acre 
and Lahore, have begun to send out their missionaries to 
Europe and America, will occur to the contemporary 
Western observer’s mind; but at this point of prognostica- 
tion we have reached our Pillars of Hercules, where the 
prudent investigator stays his course and refrains from at- 
tempting to sail out into an ocean of future time in which 
he can take no more than the most general bearings. While 
we can speculate with profit on the general shape of things 
to come, we can foresee the precise shadows of particular 
coming events only a very short way ahead; and those 
historical precedents which we have taken as our guiding 
lights inform us that the religions which are generated 
when civilizations clash take many centuries to grow to 
maturity and that, in a race that is so long drawn out, a 
dark horse is often the winner. 

Six and a half centuries separated the year in which Con- 
stantine gave public patronage to Christianity from the 
year in which the Hellespont had been crossed by Alexan- 
der the Great; five and a half centuries separated the age 
of the first Chinese pilgrims to the Buddhist Holy Land 
in Bihar from that of Menander, the Greek ruler of Hin- 
dustan who put to Indian Buddhist sages the question: 
What is truth?’ The present impact of the West on Islam, 
which began to make its pressure felt little more than a 
hundred and fifty years ago, is evidently unlikely, on these 
analogies, to produce comparable effects within any time 
that falls within the range of our powers of precise pre- 
vision; and therefore any attempt to forecast such possible 
effects might be an unprofitable exercise of the fancy. 

[ 204 1 


We can, however, discern certain principles of Islam 
which, if brought to bear on the social life of the new cos- 
mopolitan proletariat, might have important salutary effects 
on ‘the great society’ in a nearer future. Two conspicuous 
sources of danger— one psychological and the other ma- 
terial— in the present relations of this cosmopolitan prole- 
tariat with the dominant element in our modern Western 
society are race consciousness and alcohol; and in the 
struggle with each of these evils the Islamic spirit has a 
service to render which might prove, if it were accepted, 
to be of high moral and social value. 

The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims 
is one of the outstanding moral achievements of Islam, and 
in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying 
need for the propagation of this Islamic, virtue; for, al- 
though the record of history would seem on the whole 
to show that race consciousness has been the exception and 
not the rule in the constant inter-breeding of the human 
species, it is a fatality of the present situation that this 
consciousness is felt— and felt strongly— by the very peoples 
which, in the competition of the last four centuries be- 
tween several Western powers, have won— at least for the 
moment— the lion’s share of the inheritance of the Earth. 

Though in certain other respects the triumph of the 
English-speaking peoples may be judged, in retrospect, to 
have been a blessing to mankind, in this perilous matter of 
race feeling it can hardly be denied that it has been a mis- 
fortune. The English-speaking nations that have established 
themselves in the New World overseas have not, on the 
whole, been ‘good mixers.’ They have mostly swept away 
their primitive predecessors; and, where they have either 
allowed a primitive population to survive, as in South 
Africa, or have imported primitive ‘man-power’ from else- 



where, as in North America, they have developed the 
rudiments of that paralysing institution which in India— 
where in the course of many centuries it has grown to its 
full stature— we have learnt to deplore under the name of 
‘caste.’ Moreover, the alternative to extermination or segre- 
gation has been exclusion— a policy which averts the danger 
of internal schism in the life of the community which 
practises it, but does so at the price of producing a not 
less dangerous state of international tension between the 
excluding and the excluded races— especially when this 
policy is applied to representatives of alien races who are 
not primitive but civilized, like the Hindus and Chinese 
and Japanese. In this respect, then, the triumph of the 
English-speaking peoples has imposed on mankind a ‘race 
question’ which would hardly have arisen, or at least hardly 
in such an acute form and over so wide an area, if the 
French, for example, and not the English, had been vic- 
torious in the eighteenth-century struggle for the possession 
of India and North America. 

As things are now, the exponents of racial intolerance 
are in the ascendent, and, if their attitude towards ‘the 
race question’ prevails, it may eventually provoke a general 
catastrophe. Yet the forces of racial toleration, which at 
present seem to be fighting a losing battle in a spiritual 
struggle of immense importance to mankind, might still 
regain the upper hand if any strong influence militating 
against race consciousness that has hitherto been held in 
reserve were now to be thrown into the scales. It is con- 
ceivable that the spirit of Islam might be the timely rein- 
forcement which would decide this issue in favour of 
tolerance and peace. 

As for the evil of alcohol, it is at its worst among 
primitive populations in tropical regions which have been 



‘opened up’ by Western enterprise; and, though the more 
enlightened part of Western public opinion has long been 
conscious of this evil and has exerted itself to combat it, 
its power of effective action is rather narrowly limited. 
Western public opinion can only take action in such a 
matter by bringing its influence to bear upon Western 
administrators of the tropical dependencies of Western 
powers; and, while benevolent administrative action in this 
sphere has been strengthened by international conventions, 
and these are now being consolidated and extended under 
the auspices of the United Nations, the fact remains that 
even the most statesmanlike preventive measures imposed 
by external authority are incapable of liberating a com- 
munity from a social vice unless a desire for liberation and 
a will to carry this desire into voluntary action on its own 
part are awakened in the hearts of the people concerned. 
Now Western administrators, at any rate those of ‘Anglo- 
Saxon’ origin, are spiritually isolated from their ‘native’ 
wards by the physical ‘colour bar’ which their race-con- 
sciousness sets up; the conversion of the native’s soul is a 
task to which their competence can hardly be expected to 
extend; and it is at this point that Islam may have a part 
to play. 

In these recently and rapidly ‘opened up’ tropical terri- 
tories, the Western civilization has produced an economic 
and political plenum and, in the same breath, a social and 
spiritual void. The frail customary institutions of the 
primitive societies which were formerly at home in the 
land have been shattered to pieces by the impact of the 
ponderous Western machine, and millions of ‘native’ , men, 
women, and children, suddenly deprived of their tradidonal 
social environment, have been left spiritually naked and 
abashed. The more liberal-minded and intelligent of the 

[ 207 ] 


Western administrators have lately realized the vast extent 
of the psychological destruction which the process of 
Western penetration has unintentionally but inevitably 
caused; and they are now making sympathetic efforts to 
save what can still be saved from the wreck of the ‘native’ 
social heritage, and even to reconstruct artificially, on 
firmer foundations, certain valuable ‘native’ institutions 
which have been already overthrown. Yet the spiritual 
void in the ‘native’s’ soul has been, and still remains, a great 
abyss; the proposition that ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’ is as 
true in the spiritual world as in the material; and the West- 
ern civilization, which has failed to fill this spiritual vacuum 
itself, has placed at the disposal of any other spiritual forces 
which may choose to take the field an incomparable system 
of material means of communication. 

In two of these tropical regions, Central Africa and In- 
donesia, Islam is the spiritual force which has taken advan- 
tage of the opportunity thus thrown open by the Western 
pioneers of material civilization to all comers on the 
spiritual plane; and, if ever the ‘natives’ of these regions 
succeed in recapturing a spiritual state in which they are 
able to call their souls their own, it may prove to have 
been the Islamic spirit that has given fresh form to the 
void. This spirit may be expected to manifest itself in many 
practical ways; and one of these manifestations might be 
a liberation from alcohol which was inspired by religious 
conviction and which was therefore able to accomplish 
what could never be enforced by the external sanction 
of an alien law. 

Here, then, in the foreground of the future, we can re- 
mark two valuable influences which Islam may exert upon 
the cosmopolitan proletariat of a Western society that has 
cast its net round the world and embraced the whole of 

[ 208 ] 


mankind; while in the more distant future we may specu- 
late on the possible contributions of Islam to some new 
manifestation of religion. These several possibilities, how- 
ever, are all alike contingent upon a happy outcome of the 
situation in which mankind finds itself to-day. They pre- 
suppose that the discordant pammixia set up by the West- 
ern conquest of the world will gradually and peacefully 
shape itself into a harmonious synthesis out of which, 
centuries hence, new creative variations might again grad- 
ually and peacefully arise. This presupposition, however, 
is merely an unverifiable assumption which may or may 
not be justified by the event. A pammixia may end in a 
synthesis, but it may equally well end in an explosion; and, 
in that disaster, Islam might have quite a different part to 
play as the active ingredient in some violent reaction of 
the cosmopolitan underworld against its Western masters. 

At the moment, it is true, this destructive possibility 
does not appear to be imminent; for the impressive word 
‘Pan-Islamism’— which has been the bugbear of Western 
colonial administrators since it was first given currency 
by the policy of Sultan ‘Abd-al-Hamid— has lately been 
losing such hold as it may ever have obtained over the 
minds of Muslims. The inherent difficulties of conducting 
a ‘Pan-Islamic’ movement are, indeed, plain to see. ‘Pan- 
Islamism’ is simply a manifestation of that instinct which 
prompts a herd of buffalo, grazing scattered over the plain, 
to form a phalanx, heads down and horns outward, as soon 
as an enemy appears within range. In other words, it is an 
example of that reversion to traditional tactics in face of a 
superior and unfamiliar opponent, to which the name of 
‘Zealotism’ has been given in this paper. Psychologically, 
therefore, ‘Pan-Islamism’ should appeal par excellence to 
Tslamir. ‘Zealots’ in the Wahhabi or SanusI vein; but this 



psychological predisposition is balked by a technical diffi- 
culty; for in a society that is dispersed abroad, as Islam is, 
from Morocco to the Philippines and from the Volga to 
the Zambesi, the tactics of solidarity are as difficult to exe- 
cute as they are easy to imagine. 

The herd-instinct emerges spontaneously; but it can 
hardly be translated into effective action without taking 
advantage of the elaborate system of mechanical communi- 
cations which modern Western ingenuity has conjured 
up: steamships, railways, telegraphs, telephones, aeroplanes, 
motor-cars, newspapers, and the rest. Now the use of these 
instruments is beyond the compass of the Islamic ‘Zealot’s’ 
ability; and the Islamic ‘Herodian,’ who has succeeded in 
making himself more or less master of them, ex hypothesi 
desires to employ them, not in captaining a ‘Holy War’ 
against the West, but in reorganizing his own life on a 
Western pattern. One of the most remarkable signs of the 
times in the contemporary Islamic world is the emphasis 
with which the Turkish Republic has repudiated the tradi- 
tion of Islamic solidarity. ‘We are determined to work out 
our own salvation,’ the Turks seem to say, ‘and this salva- 
tion, as we see it, lies in learning how to stand on our own 
feet in the posture of an economically self-sufficient and 
politically independent sovereign state on the Western 
model. It is for other Muslims to work out their salvation 
for themselves as may seem good to them. We neither ask 
their help any longer nor offer them ours. Every people 
for itself, and the Devil take the hindermost, alia franca!’ 

Now though, since 1922, the Turks have done almost 
everything conceivable to flout Islamic sentiment, they 
have gained rather than lost prestige among other Muslims 
—even among some Muslims who have publicly denounced 
the Turks’ audacious course—in virtue of the very suc- 

[ 210] 


cess with which their audacities have so far been attended. 
And this makes it probable that the path of nationalism 
which the Turks are taking so decidedly to-day will be 
taken by other Muslim peoples with equal conviction to- 
morrow. The Arabs and the Persians are already on the 
move. Even the remote and hitherto ‘Zealot’ Afg hans have 
set their feet on this course, and they will not be the last. 
In fact, nationalism, and not Pan-Islamism, is the formation 
into which the Islamic peoples are falling; and for the 
majority of Muslims the inevitable, though undesired, out- 
come of nationalism will be submergence in the cosmopoli- 
tan proletariat of the Western world. 

This view of the present prospects of ‘Pan-Islamism’ is 
borne out by the failure of the attempt to resuscitate the 
Caliphate. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century 
the Ottoman Sultan ‘Abd-al-Hamld, discovering the title 
of Caliph in the lumber-room of the Seraglio, began to 
make play with it as a means of rallying ‘Pan-Islamic’ 
feeling round his own person. After 1922, however, Mus- 
tafa Kemal Atatiirk and his companions, finding this re- 
suscitated Caliphate incompatible with their own radically 
‘Herodian’ political ideas, first committed the historical 
solecism of equating the Caliphate with ‘spiritual’ as op- 
posed to ‘temporal’ power and finally abolished the office 
altogether. This action on the part of the Turks stimu- 
lated other Muslims, who were distressed by such high- 
handed treatment of a historic Muslim institution, to hold 
a Caliphate Conference at Cairo in 1926 in order to see if 
anything could be done to adapt a historic Muslim insti- 
tution to the needs of a newfangled age. Anyone who 
examines the records of this conference will carry away 
the conviction that the Caliphate is dead, and that this is 
so because Pan-Islamism is dormant. 

[ 211 ] 


Pan-Islamism is dormant— yet we have to reckon with 
the possibility that the sleeper may awake if ever the cos- 
mopolitan proletariat of a ‘Westernized’ world revolts 
against Western domination and cries out for anti-Western 
leadership. That call might have incalculable psychological 
effects in evoking the militant spirit of Islam— even if it 
had slumbered as long as the Seven Sleepers— because it 
might awaken echoes of a heroic age. On two historic 
occasions in the past, Islam has been the sign in which an 
Oriental society has risen up victoriously against an Occi- 
dental intruder. Under the first successors of the Prophet, 
Islam liberated Syria and Egypt from a Hellenic, domina- 
tion which had weighed on them for nearly a thousand 
years. Under Zangi and Nur-ad-Din and Saladin and the 
Mamluks, Islam held the fort against the assaults of Cru- 
saders and Mongols. If the present situation of mankind 
were to precipitate a ‘race war,’ Islam might be moved to 
play her historic role once again. Absit omen. 





What will be singled out as the salient event of our time 
by future historians, centuries hence, looking back on the 
first half of the twentieth century and trying to see its 
activities and experiences in that just proportion which 
the time-perspective sometimes reveals? Not, I fancy, any 
of those sensational or tragic/ or catastrophic political and 
economic events which occupy the headlines of our news- 
papers and the foregrounds of our minds; not wars, revolu- 
tions, massacres, deportations, famines, gluts, slumps, or 
booms, but something of which we are only half-conscious, 
and out of which it would be difficult to make a headline. 
The things that make good headlines attract our attention 
because they are on the surface of the stream of life, and 
they distract our attention from the slower, impalpable, 
imponderable movements that work below the surface and 
penetrate to the depths. But of course it is really these 
deeper, slower movements that, in the end, make history, 
and it is they that stand out huge in retrospect, when the 
sensational passing events have dwindled, in perspective, 
to their true proportions. 

L 213 1 


Mental perspective, like optical perspective, comes into 
focus only when the observer has put a certain distance 
between himself and his object. When, for example, you 
are travelling by air from Salt Lake City to Denver, the 
nearest view of the Rockies is not the best one. While you 
are actually over the mountains, you see nothing but a 
maze of peaks, ridges, gullies, and crags. It is not until you 
have left the mountains behind you and are looking back 
at them as you fly over the plains that they rise up before 
you in their magnificent order, range behind range. It is 
only then that you have a vision of the Rockies themselves. 

With this vision in my mind, I believe that future his- 
torians will be able to see our age in better proportion than 
we can. What are they likely to say about it? 

Future historians will say, I think, that the great event 
of the twentieth century was the impact of the Western 
civilization upon all the other living societies of the world 
of that day. They will say of this impact that it was so 
powerful and so pervasive that it turned the lives of all 
its victims upside down and inside out— affecting the be- 
haviour, outlook, feelings, and beliefs of individual men, 
women, and children in an intimate way, touching chords 
in human souls that are not touched by mere external ma- 
terial forces— however ponderous and terrifying. This will 
be said, I feel sure, by historians looking back on our times 
even from as short a time hence as a.d. 2047. 

What will the historians of a.d. 3047 say? If we had 
been living a century ago, I should have had to apologize 
for the fantastic conceit of pretending to speculate about 
anything that might be said or done at so immensely re- 
mote a date. Eleven hundred years was a very long time 
for people who believed that the world had been created 
in 4004 b.c. But I need not apologize to-day; for, since our 

[ 214] 


great-grandfathers’ time, there has been so great a revolu- 
tion in our time-scale that, if I were to try to plot out to 
scale, on one of these pages, a chart of the history of this 
planet since its birth, I should not be able to make so short 
a period as eleven hundred years visible to the naked eye. 

The historians of a.d. 3047, then, may have something 
far more interesting than those of a.d. 2047 to say, because 
they, by their time, may know much more of the story 
of which we, to-day, are perhaps in a rather early chapter. 
The historians of a.d. 3047 will, I believe, be chiefly inter- 
ested in the tremendous counter-effects which, by that 
time, the victims will have produced in the life of the 
aggressor. By a.d. 3047, our Western civilization, as we 
and our Western predecessors have known it, say, for the 
last twelve or thirteen hundred years, since its emergence 
out of the Dark Ages, may have been transformed, almost 
out of all recognition, by a counter-radiation of influences 
from the foreign worlds which we, in our day, are in the 
act of engulfing in ours— influences from Orthodox Chris- 
tendom, from Islam, from Hinduism, from the Far East. 

By a.d. 4047 the distinction— which looms large to-day— 
between the Western civilization, as an aggressor, and the 
other civilizations, as its victims, will probably seem unim- 
portant. When radiation has been followed by counter- 
radiation of influences, what will stand out will be a single 
great experience, common to the whole of mankind: the 
experience of having one’s parochial social heritage bat- 
tered to bits by collision with the parochial heritages of 
ofher civilizations, and then finding a new life— a new com- 
mon life— springing up out of the wreckage. The historians 
of a.d. 4047 will say that the impact of the Western civili- 
zation on its contemporaries, in the second half of the 
second millennium of the Christian era, was the epoch- 



making event of that age because it was the first step 
towards the unification of mankind into one single society. 
By their time, the unity of mankind will perhaps have come 
to seem one of the fundamental conditions of human life 
—just part of the order of nature— and it may need quite an 
effort of imagination on their part to recall the parochial 
outlook of the pioneers of civilization during the first six 
thousand years or so of its existence. Those Athenians, 
whose capital city was no more than a day's walk from 
the farthest frontiers of their country, and those American 
contemporaries— or virtual contemporaries— of theirs, whose 
country you could fly across from sea to sea in sixteen 
hours— how could they behave (as we know they did be- 
have) as if their own little country were the universe? 

And the historians of a.d. 5047? The historians of a.d. 
5047 will say, I fancy, that the importance of this social 
unification of mankind was not to be found in the field of 
technics and economics, and not in the field of war and 
politics, but in the field of religion. 


Why do I venture on these prophecies about how the 
history of our. own time will appear to people looking back 
at it several thousand years hence? Because we have about 
six thousand years of past history to judge by, since the 
first emergence of human societies of the species we call 

Six thousand years is an almost infinitesimally short time 
compared to the age of the human race, of mammals , of 
life on earth, of the planetary system round our sun, of the 
sun itself, and of the star-cluster of which our sun is a not 
particularly conspicuous member. Still, for our present 
purpose, these last six thousand years— brief though they 



are— do provide us with other examples of the phenomenon 
we are studying— examples of encounters between different 
civilizations. In relation to some of these cases, we our- 
selves, in our day, are already enjoying the advantage— 
which the historians living in a.d. 3047 or 4047 are going 
to have in looking back at us— of knowing the whole story. 
It is with some of these past encounters in mind that I have 
been speculating on how our own encounter with our 
own contemporaries is likely to turn out. 

Take the history of one of our predecessors, the Graeco- 
Roman civilization, and consider how this looks to us in 
the fairly distant perspective in which we are now able to 
see it: 

As a result of the conquests of Alexander the Great and 
of the Romans, the Graeco-Roman civilization radiated 
over most of the Old World— into India, into the British 
Isles, and even as far as China and Scandinavia. The only 
civilizations of that day which remained untouched by 
its influence were those of Central America and Peru, so 
that its expansion was not incomparable to our own in ex- 
tent and vigour. When we look back on the history of the 
Graeco-Roman world during the last four centuries b.c., 
it is this great movement of expansion and penetration that 
stands out now. The wars, revolutions, and economic 
crises that ruffled the surface of Graeco-Roman history 
during those centuries, and occupied so much of the atten- 
tion of the men and women who were struggling to live 
through them, do not mean much to us now compared 
with that great tide of Greek cultural influence invading 
Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, India, China. 

But why does the Graeco-Roman impact on these other 
civilizations matter to us now? Because of the counter- 



attack of these other civilizations on the Graeco-Roman 

This counter-attack was partly delivered in the same 
style as the original Graeco-Roman attack: that is, by force 
of arms. But we are not much interested to-day in the for- 
lorn hope of Jewish armed resistance to Greek and Roman 
imperialism in Palestine; or in the successful counter-attack 
of the Parthians and their Persian successors under the 
Sasanian Dynasty east of the Euphrates; or in the sensa- 
tional victories of the early Muslim Arabs, who in the 
seventh century of the Christian era liberated the Middle 
East from Graeco-Roman rule in as short a number of 
years as it had taken Alexander the Great to conquer it a 
thousand years earlier. 

But there was another counter-attack, a non-violent one, 
a spiritual one, which attacked and conquered, not for- 
tresses and provinces, but hearts and minds. This attack 
was delivered by the missionaries of new religions which 
had arisen in the worlds which the Graeco-Roman civiliza- 
tion had attacked by force and submerged. The prince of 
these missionaries was Saint Paul, who, starting from Anti- 
och, made the audacious march on Macedonia, Greece, 
and Rome which King Antiochus the Great had once 
attempted unsuccessfully. These religions were different in 
kind from the native religion of the Graeco-Roman world. 
The gods of Graeco-Roman paganism had been rooted in 
the soil of particular communities; they had been parochial 
and political: Athene Polias, Fortuna Praenestina, Dea 
Roma. The gods of the new religions that were making 
this non-violent counter-attack on Greek and Roman hearts 
and minds had risen above their original local origins. They 
had become universal gods, with a message of salvation 
for all mankind, Jew and Gentile, Scythian and Greek. 



Or, to put this great historical event in religious terms, one 
might say that the One True God had taken this oppor- 
tunity of the opening of men’s minds through the collision 
and collapse of their old local traditions; He had taken 
advantage of this excruciating experience in order to il- 
luminate these momentarily open minds with a fuller and , 
truer vision of His nature and purpose than they had been 
capable of receiving before. 

Take the two words ‘Jesus Christ,’ which are so very 
important for us, and which, we may venture to prophesy, 
will still be important for mankind two or three thousand 
years hence. These very words are witnesses to the en- 
counter between a Graeco-Roman civilization and a Syrian 
civilization out of which Christianity came to birth. ‘Jesus’ 
is the third person singular of a Semitic verb; ‘Christ’ is 
the passive participle of a Greek verb. The double name 
testifies that Christianity was bom into this world from a 
marriage between those two cultures. 

Consider the four higher religions, with a world-wide 
mission, which exist in the world to-day: Christianity, Islam, 
Hinduism, and the Mahayana form of Buddhism which 
prevails in the Far East. All four are, historically, products 
of the encounter between the Graeco-Roman civilization 
and its contemporaries. Christianity and Islam arose as al- 
ternative responses of the Syrian world to Graeco-Roman 
penetration: Christianity a non-violent response, Islam a 
violent one. Mahayanian Buddhism and Hinduism are the 
gentle and the violent responses of the Hindu world to 
the same Graeco-Roman challenge. 

Looking back on Graeco-Roman history to-day, about 
thirteen hundred years after the date when the Graeco- 
Roman civilization became extinct, we can see that, in this 
perspective, the most important thing in the history of the 

[ 219] 


Graeco-Roman world is its meeting with other civilizations; 
and these encounters are important, not for their immediate 
political and economic consequences, but for their long- 
term religious consequences. This Graeco-Roman illustra- 
tion, of which we know the whole story, also gives us some 
idea of the time-span of encounters between civilizations. 
The Graeco-Roman world’s impact upon other contempo- 
rary civilizations, which corresponds to the modern West- 
ern world’s impact on its own contemporaries since the 
turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, started with 
the conquests of Alexander the Great in the fourth century 
B.c.; and the Middle Eastern world was still translating the 
classical works of Greek philosophy and science some five 
or six centuries after the liberation of the Middle East from 
Graeco-Roman rule by the early Muslim Arabs in the 
seventh century of the Christian era. From the fourth 
century B.c. to the thirteenth century of the Christian era, 
it took the best part of sixteen hundred years for the en- 
counter between the Graeco-Roman civilization and its 
contemporaries to work itself out. 

Now measure against that span of sixteen hundred years 
the duration, to date, of the encounter between our modern 
Western civilization and its contemporaries. One may 
say that this encounter began with the Ottoman attack on 
the homelands of the Western civilization and with the 
great Western voyages of discovery at the turn of the fif- 
teenth and sixteenth centuries of our era. That makes only 
four-and-a-half centuries to the present. 

Let us assume, if you like, that people’s hearts and 
minds move rather faster nowadays (though I know of no 
evidence that the unconscious part of the human psyche 
ever greatly varies its pace)— even so, it looks as if we were 
still only in an early chapter of the story of our encounter 

[ 220 ] 


with the civilizations of Mexico and Peru and Orthodox 
Christendom and Islam and the Hindu world and the 
Far East. We are just beginning to see some of the effects 
of our action on them, but we have hardly begun to see the 
effects— which will certainly be tremendous— of their com- 
ing counter-action upon us. 

It is only in our generation that we have seen one of 
the first moves in this counter-offensive, and we have 
found it very disturbing; whether we have liked it or not, 
we have felt it to be momentous. I mean, of course, the 
move made by the offshoot of Orthodox Christendom in 
Russia. It is momentous and disturbing not because of the 
material power behind it. The Russians, after all, do not 
yet possess the atom bomb; but they have already shown 
(and this is the point) the power to convert Western souls 
to a non-Western ‘ideology.’ 

The Russians have taken up a Western secular social 
philosophy, Marxism; you might equally well call Marxism 
a Christian heresy, a leaf tom out of the book of Chris- 
tianity and treated as if it were the wnole gospel. The 
Russians have taken up this Western heretical religion, 
transformed it into something of their own, and are now 
shooting it back at us. This is the first shot in the anti- 
Western counter-offensive; but this Russian counter-dis- 
charge in the form of Communism may come to seem a 
small affair when the probably far more potent civilizations 
of India and China respond in their turn to our Western 
challenge. In the long run India and China seem likely to 
produce much deeper effects on our Western life than 
Russia can ever hope to produce with her Communism. 
But even the comparatively feeble native civilization of 
Mexico is beginning to react. The revolution through 
which Mexico has been passing since a.d. 1910 may be 

[221 ] 


interpreted as a first move to shake off the top-dressing 
of Western civilization which we imposed on Mexico in 
the sixteenth century; and what is happening to-day in 
Mexico may happen tomorrow in the seats of the native 
civilization of South America: in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, 
and Colombia. 


Before leaving off, I must say a word about one question 
which I have begged up to this point, and that is: what do 
we mean by a ‘civilization’? Clearly, we do mean some- 
thing, for even before we have tried to define what our 
meaning is, this classification of human societies— the West- 
ern civilization, the Islamic, the Far Eastern, the Hindu, 
and so on— does seem to make sense. These names do call 
up distinct pictures in our minds in terms of religion, archi- 
tecture, painting, manners, and customs. Still, it is better 
to try to get closer to what we mean by a term which we 
have already been working so hard. I believe I do know 
what I mean by a civilization; at least, I am sure I know 
how I have arrived at my own idea of it. 

I mean, by a civilization, the smallest unit of historical 
study at which one arrives when one tries to understand 
the history of one’s own country: the United States, say, 
or the United Kingdom. If you were to try to understand 
the history of the United States by itself, it would be un- 
intelligible: you could not understand the part played in 
American life by federal government, representative gov- 
ernment, democracy, industrialism, monogamy, Christian- 
ity, unless you looked beyond the bounds of the United 
States— out beyond her frontiers to Western Europe and to 
the other overseas countries founded by West Europeans, 
and back beyond her local origins to the history of Western 

[ 222 ] 


Europe in centuries before Columbus or Cabot had crossed 
the Atlantic. But, to make American history and institu- 
tions intelligible for practical purposes, you need not look 
beyond Western Europe into Eastern Europe or the Islamic 
world, nor behind the origins of our Western European 
civilization to the decline and fall of the Graeco-Roman 
civilization. These limits of time and space give us the 
intelligible unit of social life of which the United States 
or Great Britain or France or Holland is a part: call it 
Western Christendom, Western civilization, Western so- 
ciety, the Western world. Similarly, if you start from 
Greece or Serbia or Russia, and try to understand their 
histories, you arrive at an Orthodox Christendom or Byzan- 
tine world. If you start from Morocco or Afghanistan, 
and try to understand their histories, you arrive at an 
Islamic world. Start from Bengal or Mysore or Rajputana, 
and you find a Hindu world. Start from China or Japan 
and you find a Far Eastern world. 

While the state of which we happen to be citizens makes 
more concrete and more imperious claims on our allegiance, 
especially in the present age, the civilization of which we 
are members really counts for more in our fives. And this 
civilization of which we are members includes— at most 
stages in its history— the citizens of other states besides our 
own. It is older than our own state: the Western civiliza- 
tion is about thirteen hundred years old, whereas the King- 
dom of England is only one thousand years old, the United 
Kingdom of England and Scotland less than two hundred 
and fifty, the United States not much more than one hun- 
dred and fifty. States are apt to have short lives and sudden 
deaths: the Western civilization of which you and I are 
members may be alive centuries after the United Kingdom 
and the United States have disappeared from the political 

[ 223 1 


map of the world like their late contemporaries, the Re- 
public of Venice and the Dual Monarchy of Austria- 
Hungary. This is one of the reasons why I have been 
asking you to look at history in terms of civilizations, and 
not in terms of states, and to think of states as rather subor- 
dinate and ephemeral political phenomena in the lives of 
the civilizations in whose bosoms they appear and disap- 




As I was re-reading my notes for this essay during the last 
few days, there floated into my mind the picture of a scene 
which was transacted in the capital of a great empire about 
fourteen hundred years ago, when that capital was full of 
war— not a war on a front but a war in the rear, a war of 
turmoil and street fighting. The emperor of that empire was 
holding council to decide whether he should carry on the 
struggle or whether he should take ship and sail away to 
safety. At the crown council his wife, the empress, was pres- 
ent and spoke, and she said: ‘You, Justinian, can sail away 
if you like; the ship is at the quay and the sea is still open; 
but I am going to stay and see it out, because uctlov evrdqnov 
f| 6aadeia : “Empire is a fine winding sheet.” ’ I thought 
of this passage and my colleague, Professor Baynes, found 
it for me; and, as I thought of it, and also thought of the 
day and the circumstances in which I was writing, I de- 
cided to emend it; and I emended it to xaHiov evtaquov 
f) 6acnMa xov ©sov: ‘a finer winding-sheet is the Kingdom 
of God’— a finer because that is a winding-sheet from which 
there is a resurrection. Now that paraphrase of a famous 
phrase of Greek comes, I venture to think, rather near to the 



three Latin words which are the motto of the University 
of Oxford; and, if we believe in these three words Dominus 
Illumimtio Mea and can live up to them, we can look 
forward without dismay to any future that may be coming 
to us. The material future is very little in our power. 
Storms might come which might lay low that noble and 
beloved building and leave not one stone upon another. 
But, if the truth about this university and about ourselves 
is told in those three Latin words, then we know for certain 
that, though the stones may fall, the light by which we live 
will not go out. 

Now let me come by a very easy transition to what 
is my subject in this essay— the relation between Chris- 
tianity and civilization. This is a question which has al- 
ways been at issue since the foundation of the Christian 
Church, and of course there have been a number of alterna- 
tive views on it. 

One of the oldest and most persistent views is that Chris- 
tianity was the destroyer of the civilization within whose 
framework it grew up. That was, I suppose, the view of 
the Emperor Marcus, as far as he was aware of the presence 
of Christianity in his world. It was most emphatically and 
violently the view of his successor the Emperor Julian, 
and it was also the view of the English historian Gibbon, 
who recorded the decline and fall of the Roman Empire 
long after the event. In the last chapter of Gibbon’s history 
there is one sentence in which he sums up the theme of 
the whole work. Looking back, he says: ‘I have described 
the triumph of barbarism and religion.’ And, to understand 
his meaning, you have to turn from the middle of Chapter 
lxxi to the opening passage of Chapter i, that extraordi- 
narily majestic description of the Roman Empire at peace 
in the age of the Antonines, in the second century after 

[ 226 ] 


Christ. He starts you there, and at the end of the long 
story he says ‘I have described the triumph of barbarism 
and religion,’ meaning that it was Christianity as well as 
barbarism which overthrew the civilization for which the 
Antonines stood. 

One hesitates to question Gibbon’s authority, but I be- 
lieve there is a fallacy in this view which vitiates the whole 
of it. Gibbon assumes that the Graeco-Roman civilization 
stood at its height in the age of the Antonines and that 
in tracing its decline from that moment he is tracing that 
decline from the beginning. Evidently, if you take that 
view, Christianity rises as the empire sinks, and the rise of 
Christianity is the fall of civilization. I think Gibbon’s 
initial error lies in supposing that the ancient civilization 
of the Graeco-Roman world began to decline in the second 
century after Christ and that the age of the Antonines 
was that civilization’s highest point. I think it really began 
to decline in the fifth century before Christ. It died not 
by murder, but by suicide; and that act of suicide was 
committed before the fifth century b.c. was out. It was 
not even the philosophies which preceded Christianity that 
were responsible for the death of the ancient Graeco- 
Roman civilization. The philosophies arose because the 
civic life of that civilization had already destroyed itself 
by turning itself into an idol to which men paid an exorbi- 
tant worship. And the rise of the philosophies, and the 
subsequent rise of the religions out of which Christianity 
emerged as the final successor of them all, was something 
that happened after the Graeco-Roman civilization had 
already put itself to death. The rise of the philosophies, 
and a fortiori that of the religions, was not a cause; it was 
a consequence. 

When Gibbon in that opening passage of his work looks 



at the Roman Empire in the age of the Antonines, he 
does not say explicitly— but I am sure this was in his mind 
—that he is also thinking of himself as standing on another 
peak of civilization and looking back towards that distant 
peak in the past across a broad trough of barbarism in 
between. Gibbon thought to himself: ‘On the morrow of 
the death of the Emperor Marcus the Roman Empire 
went into decline. All the values that I, Gibbon, and my 
kind care for began then to be degraded. Religion and 
barbarism began to triumph. This lamentable state of 
affairs continued to prevail for hundreds and hundreds of 
years; and then, a few generations before my time, no 
longer ago than the close of the seventeenth century, a 
rational civilization began to emerge again.’ From his peak 
in the eighteenth century Gibbon looks back to the An- 
tonine peak in the second century, and that view— which 
is, I think, implicit in Gibbon’s work— has been put very 
clearly and sharply by a writer of the twentieth century, 
from whom I propose to quote a passage somewhat at 
length because it is, so to speak, the formal antithesis of the 
thesis which I want to maintain. 

Greek and Roman society was built on the concep- 
tion of the subordination of the individual to the com- 
munity, of the citizen to the state; it set the safety of 
the commonwealth, as the supreme aim of conduct, 
above the safety of the individual whether in this world 
or in a world to come. Trained from infancy in this 
unselfish ideal, the citizens devoted their lives to the 
public service and were ready to lay them down for 
the common good; or, if they shrank from the supreme 
sacrifice, it never occurred to them that they acted other- 
wise than basely in preferring their personal existence 
to the interests of their country. All this was changed 


by the spread of Oriental religions which inculcated the 
communion of the soul with God and its eternal salva- 
tion as the only objects worth living for, objects in 
comparison with which the prosperity and even the 
existence of the state sank into insignificance. The in- 
evitable result of this selfish and immoral doctrine was 
to withdraw the devotee more and more from the public 
service, to concentrate his thoughts on his own spiritual 
emotions, and to breed in him a contempt for the present 
life, which he regarded merely as a probation for a better 
and an eternal. The saint and the recluse, disdainful of 
earth and rapt in ecstatic contemplation of heaven, be- 
came in popular opinion the highest ideal of humanity, 
displacing the old ideal of the patriot and hero who, for- 
getful of self, lives and is ready to die for the good of 
his country. The earthly city seemed poor and con- 
temptible to men whose eyes beheld the City of God 
coming in the clouds of heaven. Thus the centre of 
gravity, so to say, was shifted from the present to a 
future life, and, however much the other world may 
have gained, there can be little doubt that this one lost 
heavily by the change. A general disintegration of the 
body politic set in. The ties of the state and the family 
were loosened: the structure of society tended to resolve 
itself into its individual elements and thereby to relapse 
into barbarism; for civilization is only possible through 
the active co-operation of the citizens and their willing- 
ness to subordinate their private interests to the common 
good. Men refused to defend their country and even to 
continue their kind. In their anxiety to save their own 
souls and the souls of others, they were content to leave 
the material world, which they identified with the princi- 
ple of evil, to perish around them. This obsession lasted 
for a thousand years. The revival of Roman law, of the 
Aristotelian philosophy, of ancient art and literature at 


the close of the Middle Ages, marked the return of 
Europe to native ideals of life and conduct, to saner, 
manlier views of the world. The long halt in the march 
of civilization was over. The tide of Oriental invasion 
had turned at last. It is ebbing still. 

It is ebbing indeed! And one might speculate about 
what the author of this passage, which was first published 
in 1906, would now write if he were revising his work for 
a fourth edition to-day. Many reading this article are, of 
course, familiar with the passage. I have not yet mentioned 
the author’s name; but, for those who do not know it al- 
ready, I would say that it is not Alfred Rosenberg; it is 
Sir James Frazer. 1 1 wonder what that gentle scholar thinks 
of the latest form in which Europe’s return ‘to native ideals 
of life and conduct’ is manifesting itself. 

Now you will have seen that the most interesting thesis 
in that passage of Frazer’s is the contention that trying to 
save one’s soul is something contrary to, and incompatible 
with, trying to do one’s duty to one’s neighbour. I am 
going, in the course of this essay, to challenge that thesis; 
at the moment I merely want to point out that Frazer is 
at the same time putting Gibbon’s thesis and stating it in 
explicit terms; and on this point I would give Frazer the 
answer that I have already ventured to give to Gibbon: 
that Christianity was not the destroyer of the ancient Greek 
civilization, because that civilization had decayed from 
inherent defects of its own before Christianity arose. But 
I would agree with Frazer, and would ask you to agree 
with me, that the tide of Christianity has been ebbing and 
that our post-Christian Western secular civilization that has 

1 Frazer, Sir J. G.: The Golden Bough, Part tv: ‘Adonis, Attis, Osiris,’ 
vol. 1, pp. 300-301 (third edition, London 1914, Macmillan, preface dated 
January, 1914). 

[ 230] 


emerged is a civilization of the same order as the pre- 
Christian Graeco-Roman civilization. This observation 
opens up a second possible view of the relation between 
Christianity and civilization— not the same view as that 
held in common by Gibbon and Frazer, not the view that 
Christianity has been the destroyer of civilization, but an 
alternative view in which Christianity appears in the role 
of civilization’s humble servant. 

According to this second possible view, Christianity is, 
as it were, the egg, grub, and chrysalis between butterfly 
and butterfly. Christianity is a transitional thing which 
bridges the gap between one civilization and another, and 
I confess that I myself held this rather patronizing view 
for many years. On this view you look at the historical 
function of the Christian Church in terms of the process 
of the reproduction of civilizations. Civilization is a species 
of being which seeks to reproduce itself, and Christianity 
has had a useful but a subordinate role in bringing two 
new secular civilizations to birth after the death of their 
predecessor. You find the ancient Graeco-Roman civiliza- 
tion in decline from the close of the second century after 
Christ onwards. And then after an interval you find— per- 
haps as early as the ninth century in Byzantium, and as 
early as the thirteenth century in the West in the person 
of the Stupor Mundi Frederick II— a new secular civiliza- 
tion arising out of the ruins of its Graeco-Roman predeces- 
sor. And you look at the role of Christianity in the interval 
and conclude that Christianity is a kind of chrysalis which 
has held and preserved the hidden germs of life until these 
have been able to break out again into a new growth of 
secular civilization. That is an alternative view to the theory 
of Christianity being the destroyer of the ancient Graeco- 
Roman civilization; and, if one looks abroad through the 

E 23* ] 


history of civilizations, one can see other cases which seem 
to conform to the same pattern. 

Take the other higher religions which are still living 
on in the world of to-day side by side with Christianity: 
Islam, Hinduism, and the Mahayana form of Buddhism 
which now prevails in the Far East. You can see the role 
of Islam as a chrysalis between the ancient civilization of 
Israel and Iran and the modem Islamic civilization of the 
Near and Middle East. Hinduism, again, seems to bridge a 
gap in the history of civilization in India between the 
modern Hindu culture and the ancient culture of the 
Aryas; and Buddhism, likewise, seems to play the same 
part as a mediator between the modern history of the Far 
East and the history of ancient China. In that picture the 
Christian Church would be simply one of a series of 
churches whose function is to serve as chrysalises to pro- 
vide for the reproduction of civilizations and thus to pre- 
serve that secular species of Society. 

Now I think there is perhaps a chrysalis-like element 
in the constitution of the Christian Church— an institutional 
element that I am going to deal with later— which may 
have quite a different purpose from that of assisting in the 
reproduction of civilizations. But, before we accept at all 
an account of the place and role of Christianity and of 
the other living higher religions in social history which 
represents these religions as being mere instruments for 
assisting in the process of the reproduction of civiliza- 
tions, let us go on testing the hypothesis by examining 
whether, in every instance of the parent-and-child relation 
between civilizations, we find a chrysalis-church inter- 
vening between the parent civilization and the daughter 
civilization. If you look at the histories of the ancient 
civilizations of South-Western Asia and Egypt, you find 

[ 2 3 2 ] 


there a rudimentary higher religion in the form of the 
I worship of a god and a related goddess. I call it rudimentary 
because, in the worship of Tammuz and Ishtar, of Adonis 
and Astarte, of Attis and Cybele, of Osiris and Isis, you 
! are very close to the nature-worship of the Earth and 
her fruits; and I think that, here again, you can see that 
this rudimentary higher religion, in each of its different 
j variants, has in every case played the historical role of 
filling a gap where there was a break in the continuity of 
j secular civilization. 

If, however, we complete our survey, we shall find that 
this apparent ‘law’ does not always hold good. Christianity 
! intervenes in this way between our own civilization and 
the Graeco-Roman one. Go back behind the Graeco- 
Roman one and you find a Minoan civilization behind 
; that. But between the Minoan and the Graeco-Roman 

| you do not find any higher religion corresponding to 

f Christianity. Again, if you go back behind the ancient 

| civilization of Aryan India, you find vestiges of a still 

i more ancient pre- Aryan civilization in the Indus Valley 

1 which have only been excavated within the last twenty 

! years, but here again you do not seem to find any higher 

religion intervening between the two. And, if you pass 
from the Old World to the New and look at the civiliza- 
tion of the Mayas in Central America, which, again, has 
had daughter civilizations born from it, you do not find, 

! here either, in the intervening period, any trace at all of 

J any higher religion or church of the same species as Chris- 

tianity or Islam or Hinduism or Mahayanian Buddhism; 
nor again is there any evidence of any such chrysalis bridg- 
ing the tr ansi tion from primitive societies to the earliest 
known civilizations-to what we might call the first genera- 
tion of civilizations; and so, when we complete our view 

[ 233 ] 




of the whole field of civilizations, as we have now done in 
a very summary way, we find that the relation between 
higher religions and civilizations seems to differ according 
to the generation of the civilization with which we are 
dealing. We seem to find no higher religion at all between 
primitive societies and civilizations of the first generation, 
and between civilizations of the first and those of the second 
generation either none or only rudiments. It is between 
civilizations of the second and those of the third generation 
that the intervention of a higher religion seems to be the 
rule, and here only. 

If there is anything in this analysis of the relation be- 
tween civilizations and higher religions, this suggests a third 
possible view of that relation which would be the exact 
inverse of the second view which I have just put before 
you. On that second view, religion is subsidiary to the 
reproduction of secular civilizations, and the inverse of 
that would be that the successive rises and falls of civiliza- 
tions may be subsidiary to the growth of religion. 

The breakdowns and disintegrations of civilizations 
might be stepping-stones to higher things on the religious 
plane. After all, one of the deepest spiritual laws that we 
know is the law that is proclaimed by Aeschylus in the 
two words Jtafrsi fid#og— ‘it is through suffering that learn- 
ing comes’— and in the New Testament in the verse ‘whom 
the Lord loveth, He chasteneth; and scourgeth every son 
whom He receiveth.’ If you apply that to the rise of the 
higher religions which has culminated in the flowering of 
Christianity, you might say that in the mythical passions 
of Tammuz and Adonis and Attis and Osiris the Passion 
of Christ was foreshadowed, and that the Passion of Christ 
was the culminating and crowning experience of the suf- 
ferings of human souls in successive failures in the enter- 

C 2 34] 


prise of secular civilization. The Christian Church itself 
arose out of the spiritual travail which was a consequence 
of the breakdown of the Graeco-Roman civilization. 
Again, the Christian Church has Jewish and Zoroastrian 
roots, and those roots sprang from an earlier breakdown, 
the breakdown of a Syrian civilization which was a sister 
to the Graeco-Roman., The kingdoms of Israel and Judah 
were two of the many states of this ancient Syrian world; 
and it was the premature and permanent overthrow of these 
worldly commonwealths and the extinction of all the 
political hopes which had been bound up with their ex- 
istence as independent polities that brought the religion of 
Judaism to birth and evoked the highest expression of its 
spirit in the elegy of the Suffering Servant, which is ap- 
pended in the Bible to the book of the prophet Isaiah. 
Judaism, likewise, has a Mosaic root which in its turn 
sprang from the withering of the second crop of the ancient 
Egyptian civilization. I do not know whether Moses and 
Abraham are historical characters, but I think it can be 
taken as certain that they represent historical stages of 
religious experience, and Moses’ forefather and forerunner 
Abraham received his enlightenment and his promise at 
the dissolution, in the nineteenth or eighteenth century 
before Christ, of the ancient civilization of Sumer and 
Akkad— the earliest case, known to us, of a civilization 
going to ruin. These men of sorrows were precursors of 
Christ; and the sufferings through which they won their 
enlightenment were Stations of the Cross in anticipation 
of the Crucifixion. That is, no doubt, a very old idea, but 
it is also an ever new one. 

If religion is a chariot, it looks as if the wheels on which 
it mounts towards Heaven may be the periodic downfalls 
of civilizations on Earth. It looks as if the movement of 

[ 235 ] 


civilizations may be cyclic and recurrent, while the move- 
ment of religion may be on a single continuous upward 
line. The continuous upward movement of religion may be 
served and promoted by the cyclic movement of civiliza- 
tions round the cycle of birth, death, birth. 

If we accept this conclusion, it opens up what may seem 
a rather startling view of history. If civilizations are the 
handmaids of religion and if the Graeco-Roman civiliza- 
tion served as a good handmaid to Christianity by bringing 
it to birth before that civilization finally went to pieces, 
then the civilizations of the third generation may be vain 
repetitions of the Gentiles. If, so far from its being the 
historical function of higher religions to minister, as chrys- 
alises, to the cyclic process of the reproduction of civiliza- 
tions, it is the historical function of civilizations to serve, 
by their downfalls, as stepping-stones to a progressive proc- 
ess of the revelation of always deeper religious insight, 
and the gift of ever more grace to act on this insight, then 
the societies of the species called civilizations will have 
fulfilled their function when once they have brought a 
mature higher religion to birth; and, on this showing, our 
own Western post-Christian secular civilization might at 
best be a superfluous repetition of the pre-Christian Graeco- 
Roman one, and at worst a pernicious back-sliding from 
the path of spiritual progress. In our Western world of 
to-day, the worship of Leviathan— the self-worship of the 
tribe— is a religion to which all of us pay some measure 
of allegiance; and this tribal religion is, of course, sheer 
idolatry. Communism, which is another of our latter-day 
religions, is, I think, a leaf taken from the book of Chris- 
tianity— a leaf torn out and misread. Democracy is another 
leaf from the book of Christianity, which has also, I fear, 
been tom out and, while perhaps not misread, has certainly 



been half emptied of meaning by being divorced from its 
Christian context and secularized; and we have obviously, 
for a number of generations past, been living on spiritual 
capital, I mean clinging to Christian practice without pos- 
sessing the Christian belief— and practice unsupported by 
belief is a wasting asset, as we have suddenly discovered, 
to our dismay, in this generation. 

If this self-criticism is just, then we must revise the 
whole of our present conception of modern history; and 
if we can make the effort of will and imagination to think 
this ingrained and familiar conception away, we shall arrive 
at a very different picture of the historical retrospect. Our 
present view of modem history focuses attention on the 
rise of our modem Western secular civilization as the 
latest great new event in the world. As we follow that 
rise, from the first premonition of it in the genius of 
Frederick II Hohenstaufen, through the Renaissance to 
the eruption of democracy and science and modem scien- 
tific technique, we think of all this as being the great new 
event in the world which demands our attention and com- 
mands our admiration. If we can bring ourselves to think 
of it, instead, as one of the vain repetitions of the Gentiles 
—an almost meaningless repetition of something that the 
Greeks and Romans did before us and did supremely well- 
then the greatest new event in the history of mankind will 
be seen to be a very different one. The greatest new event 
will then not be the monotonous rise of yet another secular 
civilization out of the bosom of the Christian Church in 
the course of these latter centuries; it will still be the 
Crucifixion and its spiritual consequences. There is one 
curious result of our immense modem scientific discoveries 
which is, I think, often overlooked. On the vastly changed 
time-scale which our astronomers and geologists have 

[ 2 37 ] 


opened up to us, the beginning of the Christian era is an 
extremely recent date; on a time-scale in which nineteen 
hundred years are no more than the twinkling of an eye, 
the beginning of the Christian era is only yesterday. It is 
only on the old-fashioned time-scale, on which the crea- 
tion of the world and the beginning of life on the planet 
were reckoned to have taken place not more than six 
thousand years ago, that a span of nineteen hundred years 
seems a long period of time and the beginning of the 
Christian era therefore seems a far-off event. In fact it 
is a very recent event— perhaps the most recent significant 
event in history— and that brings us to a consideration of 
the prospects of Christianity in the future history of man- 
kind on Earth. 

On this view of the history of religion and of the civili- 
zations, it has not been the historical function of the 
Christian Church just to serve as a chrysalis between the 
Graeco-Roman civilization and its daughter civilizations 
in Byzantium and the West; and, supposing that these two 
civilizations, which are descended from the ancient Graeco- 
Roman one, turn out to be no more than vain repetitions 
of their parent, then there will be no reason to suppose that 
Christianity itself will be superseded by some distinct, 
separate, and different higher religion which will serve as a 
chrysalis between the death of the present Western civili- 
zation and the birth of its children. On the theory that 
religion is subservient to civilization, you would expect 
some new higher religion to come into existence on each 
occasion, in order to serve the purpose of tiding over the 
gap between one civilization and another. If the truth is 
the other way round— if it is civilization that is the means 
and religion that is the end— then, once again, a civilization 
may break down and break up, but the replacement of 



one higher religion by another will not be a necessary con- 
sequence. So far from that, if our secular Western civiliza- 
tion perishes, Christianity may be expected not only to 
endure but to grow in wisdom and stature as the result of 
a fresh experience of secular catastrophe. 

There is one unprecedented feature of our own post- 
Christian secular civilization which, in spite of being a 
rather superficial feature, has a certain importance in this 
connection. In the course of its expansion our modern 
Western secular civilization has become literally world- 
wide and has drawn into its net all other surviving civiliza- 
tions as well as primitive societies. At its first appearance, 
Christianity was provided by the Graeco-Roman civiliza- 
tion with a universal state, in the shape of the Roman Em- 
pire with its policed roads and shipping routes, as an aid 
to the spread of Christianity round the shores of the Medi- 
terranean. Our modern Western secular civilization in 
its turn may serve its historical purpose by providing 
Christianity with a completely world-wide repetition of 
the Roman Empire to spread over. We have not quite 
arrived at our Roman Empire yet, though the victor in 
this war may be the founder of it. But, long before a 
world is unified politically, it is unified economically 
and in other material ways; and the unification of our 
present world has long since opened the way for St. Paul, 
who once travelled from the Orontes to the Tiber under 
the aegis of the Pax Romana, to travel on from the Tiber 
to the Mississippi and from the Mississippi to the Yangtse; 
while Clement’s and Origen’s work of infusing Greek phi- 
losophy into Christianity at Alexandria might be emulated 
in some city of the Far East by the infusion of Chinese 
philosophy into Christianity. This intellectual feat has 
indeed been partly performed already. One of the greatest 

[ 239 ] 


of modern missionaries and modem scholars, Matteo Ricci, 
who was both a Jesuit father and a Chinese literatus, set 
his hand to that task before the end of the sixteenth century 
of the Christian era. It is even possible that as, under the 
Roman Empire, Christianity drew out of and inherited 
from the other Oriental religions the heart of what was 
best in them, so the present religions of India and the form 
of Buddhism that is practised to-day in the Far East may 
contribute new elements to be grafted onto Christianity in 
days to come. And then one may look forward to what 
may happen when Caesar’s empire decays— for Caesar’s 
empire always does decay after a run of a few hundred 
years. What may happen is that Christianity may be left 
as the spiritual heir of all the other higher religions, from 
the post-Sumerian rudiment of one in the worship of Tam- 
muz and Ishtar down to those that in a.d. x 948 are still 
living separate lives side by side with Christianity, and of 
all the philosophies from Ikhnaton’s to Hegel’s; while the 
Christian Church as an institution may be left as the social 
heir of all the other churches and all the civilizations. 

That side of the picture brings one to another question 
which is both always old and always new— the question of 
the relation of the Christian Church to the Kingdom of 
Heaven. We seem to see a series of different kinds of so- 
ciety succeeding one another in this world. As the primi- 
tive species of societies has given place to a second species 
known as the civilizations within the brief period of the 
last six thousand years, so this second species of local and 
ephemeral societies may perhaps give place in its turn to 
a third species embodied in a single world-wide and en- 
during representative in the shape of the Christian Church. 

If we can look forward to that, we shall have to ask our- 
selves this question: Supposing that this were to happen, 

[ 240 ] 


would it mean that the Kingdom of Heaven would then 
have been established on Earth? - 

I think this question is a very pertinent one in our day, 
because some kind of earthly paradise is the goal of most 
of the current secular ideologies. To my mind the answer 
is emphatically ‘No,’ for several reasons which I shall now 
do my best to put before you. 

One very obvious and well-known reason lies in the 
nature of society and in the nature of man. Society is, after 
all, only the common ground between the fields of action 
of a number of personalities, and human personality, at any 
rate as we know it in this world, has an innate capacity 
for evil as well as for good. If these two statements are 
true, as I believe them to be, then in any society on Earth, 
unless and until human nature itself undergoes a moral 
mutation which would make an essential change in its 
character, the possibility of evil, as well as of good, will 
be born into the world afresh with every child and will 
never be wholly ruled out as long as that child remains 
alive. This is as much as to say that the replacement of 
a multiplicity of civilizations by a universal church would 
not have purged human nature of original sin; and this 
leads to another consideration: so long as original sin re- 
mains an element in human nature, Caesar will always 
have work to do, and there will still be Caesar’s things to 
be rendered to Caesar, as well as God’s to God, in this 
world. Human society on Earth will not be able wholly 
to dispense with institutions of which the sanction is not 
purely the individual’s active will to make them work, 
but is partly habit and partly even force. These imperfect 
institutions will have to be administered by a secular 
power which might be subordinated to religious authority 
but would not thereby be eliminated. And even if Caesar 

C H 1 ] 


were not merely subordinated but were wholly eliminated 
by the Church, something of him would still survive in 
the constitution of his supplanter; for the institutional 
element has historically, up to date, been dominant in 
the life of the Church herself in her traditional Catholic 
form, which, on the long historical view, is the form ir 
which one has to look at her. 

In this Catholic form of the Church, I see two funda- 
mental institutions, the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Hier- 
archy, which are indissolubly welded together by the fact 
that the priest, by definition, is the person with the power 
to perform the rite. If, in speaking of the Mass, one may 
speak, without offence, with the tongues of the historian 
and the anthropologist, then, using this language, one may 
describe the Sacrifice of the Mass as the mature form of a 
most ancient religious rite of which the rudiments can be 
traced back to the worship of the fertility of the Earth 
and her fruits by the earliest tillers of the soil. (I am speak- 
ing here merely of the mundane origin of the rite.) As for 
the hierarchy of the Church in its traditional form, this, as 
one knows, is modelled on a more recent and less awe- 
inspiring yet nevertheless most potent institution, the im- 
perial civil service of the Roman Empire. The Church in 
its traditional form thus stands forth armed with the spear 
of the Mass, the shield of the Hierarchy, and the helmet 
of the Papacy; and perhaps the subconscious purpose— or 
the divine intention, if you prefer that language— of this 
heavy panoply of institutions in which the Church has 
clad herself is the very practical one of outlasting the 
toughest of the secular institutions of this world, includ- 
ing all the civilizations. If we survey all the institutions of 
which we have knowledge in the present and in the past, 

I think that the institutions created, or adopted and adapted, 

[ H 2 1 


by Christianity are the toughest and the most enduring of 
any that we know and are therefore the most likely to last 
—and outlast all the rest. The history of Protestantism 
would seem to indicate that the Protestant act of casting 
off this armour four hundred years ago was premature; 
but that would not necessarily mean that this step would 
always be a mistake; and, however that may be, the insti- 
tutional element in the traditional Catholic form of the 
Church Militant on Earth, even if it proves to be an invalu- 
able and indispensable means of survival, is all the same a 
mundane feature which makes the Church Militant’s life 
different from that of the Kingdom of Heaven, in which 
they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are as 
the angels of God, and in which each individual soul 
catches the spirit of God from direct communion with 
Him— ‘like light caught from a leaping flame,’ as Plato puts 
it in his Seventh Letter. Thus, even if the Church had 
won a fully world-wide allegiance and had entered into 
the inheritance of the last of the civilizations and of all 
the other higher Religions, the Church on Earth would 
not be a perfect embodiment here on Earth of the King- 
dom of Heaven. The Church on Earth would still have sin 
and sorrow to contend with as well as to profit by as a 
means of grace on the principle of 3tcc&st pcdfoc;, and she 
would still have to wear for a long time to come a panoply 
of institutions to give her the massive social solidity that 
she needs in the mundane struggle for survival, but this at 
the inevitable price of spiritually weighing her down. On 
this showing, the victorious Church Militant on Earth will 
be a province of the Kingdom of God, but a province in 
which the citizens of the heavenly commonwealth have to 
live and breathe and labour in an atmosphere that is not 
their native element. 

[ H3 ] 


The position in which the Church would then find her- 
self is well conveyed in Plato’s conceit, in the Phaedo, of 
the true surface of the Earth. We live, Plato suggests, in 
a large but local hollow, and what we take to be the air 
is really a sediment of fog. If one day we could make our 
way to the upper levels of the surface of the Earth, we 
should there breathe the pure ether and should see the 
light of the Sun and stars direct; and then we should realize 
how dim and blurred had been our vision down in the 
hollow, where we see the heavenly bodies, through the 
murky atmosphere in which we breathe, as imperfectly as 
the fishes see them through the water in which they swim. 
This Platonic conceit is a good simile for the life of the 
Church Militant on Earth; but the truth cannot be put 
better than it has been by Saint Augustine. 

It is written of Cain that he founded a commonwealth; 
but Abel— true to the type of the pilgrim and sojourner 
that he was— did not do the like. For the Commonwealth 
of the Saints is not of this world, though it does give 
birth to citizens here in whose persons it performs its 
pilgrimage until the time of its kingdom shall come— 
the time when it will gather them all together . 2 

This brings me in conclusion to the last of the topics on 
which I am going to touch, that of the relation between 
Christianity and progress. 

If it is true, as I think it is, that the Church on Earth 
will never be a perfect embodiment of the Kingdom of 
Heaven, in what sense can we say the words of the Lord’s 
Prayer: ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in Earth 
as it is in Heaven’? Have we been right, after all, in com- 
ing to the conclusion that— in contrast to the cyclic move- 

2 Saint Augustine: Be Chit ate Dei , Book xv, chap. i. 



ment of the rises and falls of civilizations— the history of 
religion on Earth is a movement in a single continuous up- 
ward line? What are the matters in which there has been, 
in historical times, a continuous religious advance? And 
have we any reason to think that this advance will con- 
tinue without end? Even if the species of societies called 
civilizations does give way to a historically younger and 
perhaps spiritually higher species embodied in a single 
world-wide and enduring representative in the shape of the 
Christian Church, may there not come a time when the tug 
of war between Christianity and original sin will settle 
down to a static balance of spiritual forces? 

Let me put forward one or two considerations in reply 
to these questions. 

In the first place, religious progress means spiritual 
progress, and spirit means personality. Therefore religious 
progress must take place in the spiritual lives of personali- 
ties— it must show itself in their rising to a spiritually higher 
state and achieving a spiritually finer activity. 

Now, in assuming that this individual progress is what 
spiritual progress means, are we after all admitting Frazer’s 
thesis that the higher religions are essentially and incurably 
anti-social? Does a shift of human interest and energy from 
trying to create the values aimed at in the civilizations to 
trying to create the values aimed at in the higher religions 
mean that the values for which the civilizations stand are 
bound to suffer? Are spiritual and social values antithetical 
and inimical to each other? Is it true that the fabric of 
civilization is undermined if the salvation of the individual 
soul is taken as being the supreme aim of life? 

Frazer answers these questions in the affirmative. If his 
answer were right it would mean that human life was a 
tragedy without a catharsis. But I personally believe that 

[*45 ] 


Frazer’s answer is not right, because I think it is based on a 
fundamental misconception of what the nature of souls 
or personalities is. Personalities are inconceivable except 
as agents of spiritual activity; and the only conceivable 
scope for spiritual activity lies in relations between spirit 
and spirit. It is because spirit implies spiritual relations that 
Christian theology has completed the Jewish doctrine of 
the Unity of God with the Christian doctrine of the 
Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is the theological 
way of expressing the revelation that God is a spirit; the 
doctrine of the Redemption is the theological way of ex- 
pressing the revelation that God is Love. If man has been 
created in the likeness of God, and if the true end of man 
is to make this likeness ever more and more like, then 
Aristotle’s saying that ‘man is a social animal’ applies to 
man’s highest potentiality and aim— that of trying to get 
into ever closer communion with God. Seeking God is 
itself a social act. And if God’s love has gone into action 
in this world in the Redemption of mankind by Christ, 
then man’s efforts to make himself liker to God must in- 
clude efforts to follow Christ’s example in sacrificing him- 
self for the redemption of his fellow men. Seeking and 
following God in this way, that is God’s way, is the only 
true way for a human soul on Earth to seek salvation. The 
antithesis between trying to save one’s own soul by seek- 
ing and following God and trying to do one’s duty to 
one’s neighbour is therefore wholly false. The two activi- 
ties are indissoluble. The human soul that is truly seeking 
to save itself is as fully social a being as the ant-like 
Spartan or the bee-like Communist. Only, the Christian 
soul on Earth is a member of a very different society from 
Sparta or Leviathan. He is a citizen of the Kingdom of 
God, and therefore his paramount and all-embracing aim 

[ 2 4 <> ] 


is to attain the highest degree of communion with, and 
likeness to, God Himself; his relations with his fellow men 
are consequences of, and corollaries to, his relations with 
God; and his way of loving his neighbour as himself will 
be to try to help his neighbour to won what he is seeking 
for himself— that is, to come into closer communion with 
God and to become more godlike. 

If this is a soul’s recognized aim for itself and for its 
fellow souls in the Christian Church Militant on Earth, 
then it is obvious that under a Christian dispensation God’s 
will 'will be done in Earth as it is in Eleaven to an im- 
measurably greater degree than in a secular mundane so- 
ciety. It is also evident that, in the Church Militant on 
Earth, the good social aims of the mundane societies will 
incidentally be achieved very much more successfully than 
they ever have been or can be achieved in a mundane so- 
ciety which aims at these objects direct, and at nothing 
higher. In other words, the spiritual progress of individual 
souls in this life wall in fact bring with it much more social 
progress than could be attained in any other way. It is a 
paradoxical but profoundly true and important principle 
of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be 
aiming not at that goal itself but at some more ambitious 
goal beyond it. This is the meaning of the fable in the 
Old Testament of Solomon’s Choice and of the saying in 
the New Testament about losing one’s life and saving it. 

Therefore, while the replacement of the mundane civili- 
zations by the world-wide and enduring reign of the 
Church Militant on Earth would certainly produce what 
to-day would seem a miraculous improvement in those 
mundane social conditions which the civilizations have 
been seeking to improve during the last six thousand years, 
the aim, and test, of progress under a truly Christian dis- 

[ 2 47 1 


pensation on Earth would not lie in the field of mundane 
social life; the field would be the spiritual life of individual 
souls in their passages through this earthly life from birth 
into this world to death out of it. 

But if spiritual progress in time in this world means 
progress achieved by individual human souls during their 
passages through this world to the other world, in what 
sense can there be any spiritual progress over a time-span 
far longer than that of individual lives on Earth, and run- 
ning into thousands of years, such as that of the historical 
development of the higher religions from the rise of Tam • 
muz-worship and the generation of Abraham to the Chris- 
tian era? 

I have already confessed my own adherence to the tradi- 
tional Christian view that there is no reason to expect any 
change in unredeemed human nature while human life on 
Earth goes on. Till this Earth ceases to be physically habit- 
able by man, we may expect that the endowments of indi- 
vidual human beings with original sin and with natural 
goodness will be about the same, on the average, as they 
always have been as far as our knowledge goes. The most 
primitive societies known to us in the life or by report 
provide examples of as great natural goodness as, and no 
lesser wickedness than, the highest civilizations or religious 
societies that have yet come into existence. There has been 
no perceptible variation in the average sample of human 
nature in the past; there is no ground, in the evidence 
afforded by History, to expect any great variation in the 
future either for better or for worse. 

The matter in which there might be spiritual progress 
in time on a time-span extending over many successive 
generations of life on Earth is not the unregenerate nature 
of man, but the opportunity open to souls, by way of the 



learning that comes through suffering, for getting into 
closer communion with God, and becoming less unlike 
Him, during their passage through this world. 

What Christ, with the Prophets before Him and the 
Saints after Him, has bequeathed to the Church, and what 
the Church, by virtue of having been fashioned into an 
incomparably effective institution, succeeds in accumulat- 
ing, preserving, and communicating to' successive genera- 
tions of Christians, is a growing fund of illumination and 
of grace— meaning by ‘illumination’ the discovery or reve- 
lation or revealed discovery of the true nature of God and 
the true end of man here and hereafter, and by ‘grace,’ the 
will or inspiration or inspired will to aim at getting into 
closer communion with God and becoming less unlike 
Him. In this matter of increasing spiritual opportunity for 
souls in their passages through life on Earth, there is 
assuredly an inexhaustible possibility of progress in this 

Is the spiritual opportunity given by Christianity, or by 
one or other of the higher religions that have been fore- 
runners of Christianity and have partially anticipated Chris- 
tianity’s gifts of illumination and grace to men on Earth, 
an indispensable condition for salvation— meaning by ‘salva- 
tion’ the spiritual effect on a soul of feeling after God and 
finding Him in its passage through life on Earth? 

If this were so, then the innumerable generations of men 
who never had the chance of receiving the illumination 
and grace conveyed by Christianity and the other higher 
religions would have been born and have died without a 
chance of the salvation which is the true end of man and 
the true purpose of life on Earth. This might be conceiv- 
able, though still repugnant, if we believed that the true 
purpose of life on Earth was not the preparation of souls 

C 2 49 ] 


for another life, but the establishment of the best possible 
human society in this world, which in the Christian belief 
is not the true purpose, though it is an almost certain by- 
product of a pursuit of the true purpose. If progress is 
taken as being the social progress of Leviathan and not the 
spiritual progress of individual souls, then it would perhaps 
be conceivable that, for the gain and glory of the body 
social, innumerable earlier generations should have been 
doomed to live a lower social life in order that a higher 
social life might eventually be lived by successors who had 
entered into their labours. This would be conceivable on 
the hypothesis that individual human souls existed for the 
sake of society, and not for their own sakes or for God’s. 
But this belief is not only repugnant but is also inconceiv- 
able when we are dealing with the history of religion, 
where the progress of individual souls through this world 
towards God, and not the progress of society in this world, 
is the end on which the supreme value is set. We cannot 
believe that the historically incontestable fact that illu- 
mination and grace have been imparted to men on Earth 
in successive instalments, beginning quite recently in the 
history of the human race on Earth, and even then coming 
gradually in the course of generations, can have entailed 
the consequence that the vast majority of souls born into 
the world up to date, who have had no share in this 
spiritual opportunity, have, as a result, been spiritually 
lost. We must believe that the possibilities, provided by 
God, of learning through suffering in this world have al- 
ways afforded a sufficient means of salvation to every soul 
that has made the best of the spiritual opportunity offered 
to it here, however small that opportunity may have been. 

But, if men on Earth have not had to wait for the 
advent of the higher religions, culminating in Christianity, 

L 250] 


in order to qualify, in their life on Earth, for eventually 
attaining, after death, the state of eternal felicity in the 
other world, then what difference has the advent on Earth 
of the higher religions, and of Christianity itself, really 
made? The difference, I should say, is this, that, under the 
Christian dispensation, a soul which does make the best 
of its spiritual opportunities will, in qualifying for salvation, 
be advancing farther towards communion with God and 
towards likeness to God under the conditions of life on 
Earth, before death, than has been possible for souls that 
have not been illuminated, during their pilgrimage on Earth, 
by the light of the higher religions. A pagan soul, no less 
than a Christian, soul, has ultimate salvation within its reach; 
but a soul which has been offered, and has opened itself to, 
the illumination and the grace that Christianity conveys, 
will, while still in this world, be more brightly irradiated 
with the light of the other world than a pagan soul that 
has won salvation by making the best, in this world, of the 
narrower opportunity here open to it. The Christian soul 
can attain, while still on Earth, a greater measure of man’s 
greatest good than can be attained by any pagan soul in 
this earthly stage of its existence. 

Thus the historical progress of religion in this world, 
as represented by the rise of the higher religions and by 
their culmination in Christianity, may, and almost certainly 
will, bring with it, incidentally, an immeasurable improve- 
ment in the conditions of human social life on Earth; but 
its direct effect and its deliberate aim and its true test is 
the opportunity which it brings to individual souls for 
spiritual progress in this world during the passage from 
birth to death. It is this individual spiritual progress in 
this world for which we pray when we say Thy will be 
done in Earth as it is in Heaven.’ It is for the salvation that 

C 25 * 1 


is open to all men of good will— pagan as well as Christian, 
primitive as well as civilized— who make the most of their 
spiritual opportunities on Earth, however narrow these 
opportunities may be, that we pray when we say ‘Thy 
Kingdom come.’ 

[ 25 2 3 




The questions discussed in this essay have been debated 
acutely, for centuries past, by theologians and philosophers. 
In taking them up, the present writer is therefore likely to 
fall into errors that will seem elementary to his readers. 
He will certainly be treading on ground that is familiar and 
well-worn to them. He ventures, nevertheless, on this in- 
quiry in the hope that it may be of some interest to theo- 
logians to see how these old theological questions are ap- 
proached by a historian. In any case, theologians may 
perhaps find some amusement in watching an unwary his- 
torian floundering in well-known and minutely charted 
theological morasses. 

Let us start our inquiry by examining successively two 
points of view which lie at opposite extremes of the his- 
torico-theological gamut, but which, if respectively tenable, 
would each solve the problem of the meaning of history 
for the soul in fairly simple terms. In the writer’s opinion 
(he may as well declare in advance) both points of view 
are in truth untenable, though each does contain an ele- 

[ 253 ] 


ment of truth which it invalidates through the exaggera- 
tion of pushing it to extremes. 


The first of these two extreme views is that, for the 
soul, the whole meaning of its existence is contained in 

On this view, the individual human being is nothing but 
a part of the society of which he is a member. The individ- 
ual exists for society, not society for the individual. There- 
fore the significant and important thing in human life is 
not the spiritual development of souls but the social de- 
velopment of communities. In the writer’s opinion, this 
thesis is not true, and, when it has been taken as true and 
has been put into action, it has produced moral enormities. 

The proposition that the individual is a mere part of a 
social whole may be the truth about social insects— bees, 
ants, and termites— but it is mot the truth about any human 
beings of whom we have any knowledge. Afl early twen- 
tieth-century school of anthropologists, of which Durk- 
heim was the leading representative, drew a picture of 
primitive man which portrayed him as being almost of a 
different mental and spiritual breed from our allegedly ra- 
tional selves. Drawing its evidence from descriptions of 
surviving primitive societies, this school represented primi- 
tive man as being governed not by the rational operation 
of the individual intellect, but by the collective emotion of 
the human herd. This sharp distinction between an ‘un- 
civilized’ and a ‘civilized’ breed of man has, however, 
to be radically revised and toned down in the light 
of the illuminating psychological discoveries that have 
been made since Durkheim’s day. Psychological re- 
search has shown us that the so-called savage has no 

[ 254 ] 


monopoly of the emotionally governed life of the col- 
lective unconscious. Though it happens to have been 
first laid bare in the soul of primitive man by anthropo- 
logical observation, psychological research has made it 
clear that, in our comparatively sophisticated souls too, 
the collective unconscious underlies a consciousness that 
rides on it like a cockleshell floating precariously on a 
bottomless and shoreless ocean. Whatever the constitution 
of the human psyche may prove to be, we can already be 
more or less certain that it is substantially the same in 
human beings like ourselves, who are in the act of attempt- 
ing to climb from the level of primitive human life to the 
ledge of civilization, and in ex-primitives, like the Papuans 
of New Guinea and the Negritos of Central Africa, who 
have been played upon, within the last few thousand years, 
by the radiation of societies that have been in process of 
civilization within that period. The psychic make-up of all 
extant human beings, in all extant types of society, appears 
to be substantially identical, and we have no ground for 
believing it to have been different in the earliest representa- 
tives of the species sapiens of the genus homo that are 
known to us, not from the anthropologist’s personal inter- 
course with living people, but from the archaeologist’s and 
the physiologist’s deciphering of the revealing evidence of 
artifacts and skeletons. In the most primitive as well as 
in the least primitive state in which homo sapiens is in 
any way known to us, we may conclude that the individual 
human being possesses some measure of self-conscious per- 
sonality that raises his soul above the level of the waters of 
the collective unconscious, and this means that the indi- 
vidual soul does have a genuine life of its own which is dis- 
tinct from the life of society. We may also conclude that 
individuality is a pearl of great moral price, when we ob- 

[ 25s 1 


serve the moral enormities that occur when this pearl is 
trampled in the mire. 

These enormities are most conspicuous in extreme ex- 
amples: the Spartan way of life in the society of classical 
Greece, the Ottoman Sultan’s slave household in the early 
modern Islamic world, the totalitarian regimes that have 
been established by force in a number of Western or par- 
tially Westernized countries in our own day. But when 
once we have grasped, from such extreme cases, what the 
nature of these moral enormities is, it is more instructive 
to detect the Spartan tincture in the patriotism of the 
ordinary classical Greek city-state, and the totalitarian 
tincture in our ordinary modern Western nationalism. In 
religious terms, this treatment of the individual as a mere 
part of the community is a denial of the personal relation 
between the soul and God and is a substitution, for the 
worship of God, of a worship of the human community— 
Leviathan, the abomination of desolation, standing in the 
place where it ought not. The German National-Socialist 
youth leader, Baldur von Schirach, once declared that his 
task was ‘to build a great altar to Germany in every Ger- 
man heart.’ It must be wrong to worship a man-made in- 
stitution which is ephemeral, imperfect, and often utterly 
evil in its operation, and it is worth recalling that a particu- 
larly noble— perhaps the noblest conceivable— form of this 
Leviathan- worship was intransigently rejected by early 
Christianity. If any human community were ever worthy 
of worship, it would be a universal state, like the Roman 
Empire, that has brought the blessings of unity and peace 
to a world long racked by war and revolution. Yet the 
early Christians challenged the apparently irresistible might 
of the Roman Imperial Government rather than compro- 
mise with a Leviathan-worship that was persuasively com- 

[* 5 <] 


mended to them as being nothing more sinister than an 
amiable formality 

Leviathan- worship is a moral enormity, even at its noblest 
and mildest; yet there is an element of truth underlying 
this mistaken belief that society is the end of man and that 
the individual is merely a means to that end. This under- 
lying truth is that man is a social creature. He cannot 
achieve the potentialities of his nature except by going 
outside himself and entering into relations with other 
spiritual beings. The Christian would say that the most 
important of the soul’s relations is its communion with 
God, but that it also needs to have relations with its fellow 
creatures, who are God’s other children. 


Let us now take a flying leap to the opposite pole and 
examine the antithetical view that, for the soul, the whole 
meaning of its existence lies outside history. 

On this view, this world is wholly meaningless and evil. 
The task of the soul in this world is to endure it, to detach 
itself from it, to get out of it. This is the view of the Bud- 
dhist, Stoic and Epicurean schools of philosophy (what- 
ever the Buddha’s own personal outlook may have been). 
There is a strong vein of it in Platonism. And it has been 
one of the historic interpretations (in the writer’s belief, 
a mistaken one) of Christianity. 

According to the extreme Buddhist view, the soul itself 
is part and parcel of the phenomenal world, so that, in order 
to get rid of the phenomenal world, the soul has to ex- 
tinguish itself. At any rate, it has to extinguish elements 
in itself which, to the Christian mind, are essential for the 
soul’s existence: for example, above all, the feelings of love 
and pity. This is unmistakably evident in the Hinayana in- 

[ 257 ] 


terpretation of Buddhism, but it is also implicit in the 
Mahayana, however reluctant the followers of the Maha- 
yana school may be to dwell on the ultimate implications 
of their own tenets. The Mahayanian Bodhisattva may be 
moved, by his love and pity for his fellow sentient beings, 
to postpone his own entry into Nirvana for aeons upon 
aeons for the sake of helping his fellows to follow the path 
that he has found for himself. Yet this path is, after all, 
the orthodox one that leads to salvation through self- 
extinction, and the Bodhisattva’s sacrifice, though im- 
mense, is not irrevocable or everlasting. At long last, he is 
going to take that final step into the Nirvana on whose 
threshold he already stands, and, in the act, he will ex- 
tinguish, with himself, the love and pity that have won for 
him the answering love and gratitude of mankind. 

The Stoic might be described (perhaps too unkindly) 
as a would-be Buddhist who has not had quite the full 
courage of his convictions. As for the Epicurean, he re- 
gards this world as an accidental, meaningless, and evil 
product of the mechanical interplay of atoms, and— since 
the probable duration of the particular ephemeral world in 
which he happens to find himself may be drearily long by 
comparison with a human being’s expectation of life— he 
must look forward to, or expedite, his own dissolution as 
the only way out for himself. 

The Christian of the extreme other-worldly school does, 
of course, believe that God exists and that this world has 
been created by Him for a purpose, but this purpose, as he 
sees it, is the negative one of training the soul, by suffering, 
for life in another world with which this world has nothing 
positive in common. 

This view that the whole meaning of the soul’s existence 
lies outside history seems to the writer to present diffi- 

[* 58 ] 


culties, even in its attenuated Christian version, that are in- 
surmountable from the Christian standpoint. 

In the first place, any such view is surely incompatible 
with the distinctive belief of Christianity about the nature 
of God:' the belief that God loves His creatures and so 
loved the world that He became incarnate in order to bring 
redemption to human souls during their life on Earth. It is 
hard to conceive of a loving God as creating this, or any, 
world of sentient creatures not for its own sake but 
merely as a means to some end in another world for whose 
blissful denizens this world is a waste land beyond the 
pale. It is even harder to conceive of Him as deliberately 
charging this forlorn waste land of his alleged creation with 
sin and suffering, in the cold-blooded spirit of a military 
commander who creates an exercise ground for his troops 
by taking, or making, a wilderness and sowing it with 
live mines, strewing it with unexploded shells and hand 
grenades, and drenching it with poison gas in order to 
train his soldiers to cope with these infernal machines at 
grievous cost to them in life and limb. 

Moreover, whatever may or may not be possible for 
God, we can declare with assurance that it is not possible 
for the soul to treat its relations in this world with other 
souls as being of no importance in themselves, but as being 
merely a means to its own salvation. So, far from being a 
good training in this world for Christian perfection in an- 
other world, such odious inhumanity in man’s attitude 
towards his fellow men would be an education in hardening 
his heart against the promptings of Christian love. In other 
words, it would be the worst conceivable mis-education 
from the Christian point of view. 

Finally, if we believe that all souls are objects of absolute 
value to God, we cannot but believe that they must also 

[ 2 59 ] 


be of absolute value to one another whenever and wherever 
they meet: of absolute value in this world in anticipation 
of the next. 

The view that, for the soul, the whole meaning of its 
existence lies outside history thus proves to be no less re- 
pellent than the antithetical view which we examined first; 
yet, in this case, as in that, there is an element of truth un- 
derlying the mistaken belief. While it is not true that man’s 
social life and human relations in this world are merely a 
means towards a personal spiritual end, the underlying 
truths are that in this world we do learn by suffering; that 
life in this world is not an end in itself and by itself; that 
it is only a fragment (even if an authentic one) of some 
larger whole; and that, in this larger whole, the central 
and dominant (though not the only) feature in the soul’s 
spiritual landscape is its relation to God. 


We have now rejected two views, both of which offer 
an answer to our question: What is the meaning of history 
for the soul? We have refused to admit that, for the soul, 
the meaning of its existence lies either wholly in history 
or wholly outside history. And this pair of negative con- 
clusions confronts us with a dilemma. 

In rejecting the view that the meaning of the soul’s ex- 
istence lies wholly in history, we have vindicated the 
primacy— as a fact, as a right, and as a duty— of each 
individual soul’s relation to God. But if every soul, at any 
time or place, and in any social or historical situation in 
this world, is in a position to know and love God— or, in 
traditional theological terms, in a position to find salvation 
—this truth might seem to empty history of significance. 

[ 260 ] 


If the most primitive people, in the most rudimentary 
conditions of social and spiritual life in this world, can 
achieve the true end of man in man’s relation to God, then 
why should we strive to make this world a better place? 
Indeed, what intelligible meaning could be attached to 
those words? On the other hand, in rejecting the view that 
the meaning of the soul’s existence lies wholly outside 
history, we have vindicated the primacy of God’s love in 
His relation to His creatures. But, if this world has the 
positive value that it must have if God loves it and has be- 
come incarnate in it, then His attempts, and our attempts 
under His inspiration and on His behalf, to make this world 
a better place must be right and significant in some sense. 

Can we resolve this apparent contradiction? We might 
perhaps resolve it for practical purposes if we could find 
an answer to the question: In what sense can there be 
progress in this world? 

The progress with which we are here concerned is a 
progressive improvement, continuous and cumulative from 
generation to generation, in our social heritage. By progress, 
we must mean this; for there is no warrant for supposing 
that, within ‘historical times,’ there has been any progress 
in the evolution of human nature itself, either physical or 
spiritual. Even if we push our historical horizon back to 
the date of the first emergence of homo sapiens, the period 
is infinitesimally short on the time scale of the evolution 
of life on this planet. Western man, at the present high 
level of his intellectual powers and technological aptitudes, 
has not sloughed off Adam’s heirloom of original sin, and, 
to the best of our knowledge, homo aurignacius, a hundred 
thousand years ago, must have been endowed, for good 
or evil, with the self-same spiritual, as well as physical, 
characteristics that we find in ourselves. Progress then, if 



discernible within ‘historical times,’ must have been prog- 
ress in the improvement of our social heritage and not 
progress in the improvement of our breed, and the evi- 
dence for social progress is, of course, impressive in the 
field of scientific knowledge and its application to tech- 
nology: in everything, that is to say, which has to do with 
man’s command over non-human nature. This, however, 
is a side issue; for the impressiveness of the evidence for 
progress in this particular field is matched by the obvious- 
ness of the fact that man is relatively good at dealing with 
non-human nature. What he is bad at is his dealing with 
human nature in himself and in his fellow human beings. 
A ) fortiori , he has proved to be very bad indeed at getting 
into the right relation with God. Man has been a dazzling 
success in the field of intellect and ‘know-how’ and a dis- 
mal failure in the things of the spirit, and it has been the 
great tragedy of human life on Earth that this sensational 
inequality of man’s respective achievements in the non- 
human and in the spiritual sphere should, so far at any rate, 
have been this way round; for the spiritual side of man’s 
life is of vastly greater importance for man’s well-being 
(even for his material well-being, in the last resort) than 
is his command over non-human nature. 

What is the position, then, in terms of this spiritual side 
of life which matters so much to man and in which he has 
so far been so backward? Can there be cumulative progress 
in the improvement of our social heritage in terms of the 
spiritual life of mankind— which means the spiritual life of 
individual souls, since man’s relation to God is personal and 
not collective? A conceivable kind of progress in these 
spiritual terms— a kind that would give significance to his- 
tory and would, so to speak, justify God’s love for this 
world and His incarnation in it— would be a cumulative 


increase in the means of Grace at the disposal of each soul 
in this world. There are, of course, elements, and very 
important elements, in man’s spiritual situation in this world 
which would not be affected by such an increase in the 
means of Grace available. It would not affect either man’s 
innate tendency to original sin or his capacity for obtaining 
salvation in this world. Every child would be bom in the 
bondage of original sin under the new and the old spiritual 
dispensation alike, though the child bom under the new 
dispensation might be far better armed and aided than his 
predecessors were for obtaining his liberation. Again, un- 
der the old and the new dispensation alike, the opportunity 
for obtaining salvation in this world would be open to 
every soul, since every soul always and everywhere has 
within its reach the possibility of knowing and loving God. 
The actual— and momentous— effect of a cumulative in- 
crease in the means of Grace at man’s disposal in this world 
would be to make it possible for human souls, while still 
in this world, to come to know God better and come to 
love Him more nearly in His own way. 

On such a view, this world would not be a spiritual ex- 
ercise ground beyond the pale of the Kingdom of God; it 
would be a province of the Kingdom— one province only, 
and not the most important one, yet one which had the 
same absolute value as the rest, and therefore one in which 
spiritual action could, and would, be fully significant and 
worth while; the one thing of manifest and abiding value 
in a world in which all other things are vanity. 




<-> 76$ D 

Central Archaeological Library, 


Call No.Cj Ojj y ) a'/- 

/• : ; j Author— n’ $■ 

/' , ' ^ 

J . Title— C^C\li-ki ^cJLat^J 

" A **** 


^ r, G0VT ' °P INDIA 

A • I Wttf Ald , ! „w % 

g new DELHI. % 

aotc to kMp tiie bo<,!: 

fii ®*Ub*n. delhi. *